Guest Column — Religious Use Of Marijuana Trial, Day Seven (Part One)

By Matt Rifkin
Rev Nancy trial day 7
10:36am – running late
15-20 supporters in the gallery…print media, bloggers, video camera crew…all present…
Jury, Judge Hara enter.
Sulla calls next witness…defendant Rev Nancy Harris…
Sulla going over basic questions…born 1955, Columbus, Ohio. Went to college at 30, had been poor and couldn’t support family. Took ACT test, got a scholarship at community college. AS in Math, then college for MS science and math education. Fellowship at University of Arkansas, MS science and math. Got hired at UA as lecturer, teaching math to sight impaired and disabled students. She can read Braille. Taught from 1994 as a grad student thru 2004. Taught calculus 1 & 2, while raising a family. At some point learned about a church using cannabis as a sacrament, around 1999. Her family had gone through a traumatic event, and she was lost, low, no spiritual grounding. Working, but spiritually empty. Had been a using cannabis recreationally, yet, also found connection to higher source. Raised Christian, fallen to agnostic, no God feeling. Knew there was a higher power, cannabis helped make that connection. Met Rev Tom Brown, the minister at the First Church of the Majai, Fayetteville, AR, where he had been released from jail for the activities of his church. Services were held in a public park, which she attended from 1999 until the founding of STM. Read more

Letters — Regarding The Pahoa Reuse Center

The Pahoa Reuse Center has been operating out of the open-aired bamboo structure built by Leimana Pelton.

Mahalo to everyone for your interest in the Pahoa reuse center. (Click to see more photos.) Here’s a statement from the Department:

The Reuse Center at the Pahoa Recycling and Transfer Station will be closed temporarily beginning this week for the construction of improvements that will make it a better resource for the community.

The County Department of Environmental Management plans to enclose the Pahoa reuse center partially to make it easier to manage the reusable items that are made available to the public.

The Pahoa reuse facility is expected to reopen in November under a new contract for the operation of reuse centers at County transfer stations island-wide by a private vendor.

The County has issued a public Request for Proposals (RFP) for that contract which is expected to be issued in November. Anyone interested may contact the County Purchasing Division at 961-8231 or online here.

Only the reuse center portion of the recycling and transfer station is closing temporarily. All the other recycling, Hi5 redemption and rubbish services will be available.

Reuse centers take reusable, donated items from the public for distribution to other members of the public who can reuse the items. Recycle Hawaii, the non-profit organization currently operating reuse centers at the Keaau Recycling and Transfer Station and other recycling and transfer stations, accepts reusable items free and charges a nominal fee for items taken from the facility.

Donating reusable items to reuse centers provides a useful service to the community and helps preserve space in our County landfills.

Meanwhile, the public is being asked to take their reusable items to the Keaau Recycling and Transfer Station until the Pahoa reuse center is operating again.

The Department of Environmental management also would like to acknowledge the volunteers who have helped operate the reuse facility in Pahoa and the many people who have visited the facility over the past few weeks. The department now looks forward to bringing back a better reuse facility for the public this fall.
Status of Bids and Proposals for Purchasing at
Hunter Bishop
Deputy Environmental Management Director

***Commentary*** I Have Been Subpoenaed

From newswoman to newsmaker — Deputy Prosecutor Ricky Damerville “rush” subpoenaed me to testify in the religious use of marijuana trial.
This is a first in my journalism career.
I’m to appear inThird Circuit Court this afternoon to testify in the trial of Nancy Harris who is accused of commercial promotion of marijuana and is using a religious marijuana defense.
At issue is my June 2009 coverage of the case, specifically a free-lance article I wrote for the Big Island Weekly.

Guest Column —Religious Use Of Marijuana Trial, Day Six

By Matt Rifkin
Court resumes at 9:58am, jury, Judge Hara enter. Detective Prudencio on the stand. Sulla to finish his cross examination.
Exhibit 203, 6th item, two signs…shown to jury. One is torn, or cut. Not listed as such in the evidence receipt. Prudencio doesn’t recall it being ripped. Sulla tries to pin point when Prudencio arrived at the scene, 23:15 is noted as the start of evidence recovery. Who else what there? Don’t exactly recall, but Bello, Webber, Fernandez and Shimabukuro. Was the scene under control? Yes. Did you note other officers damaging other items when you left? No
Did Officer Webber, who was lead officer, ask you to collect the photos/business cards that were stuck in some of the plants? Did you know who the photo was of? Yes, Ken Slaughter. Were those items in the reports, why didn’t Webber have you collect them? No and I don’t know why.
Shows photo to jury. Whose name is on the envelope? Kena Miyamoto Slaughter. You saw no one at the property? Yes. You didn’t collect this item? No. Was there evidence of other people living there? Yes, I believe so. You collected a receipt that was two years old, with Rev Nancy Harris on it? Yes. Where? In the greenhouse on a table
Sulla finishes. Damerville to redirect.
You testified about pots? Yes. There were more pots with marijuana in them? Yes, only took a few pots as evidence.
Technical issues posting the photo on the screen…Damerville, “so much for our $90 million investment”
The enlarged photo, you reviewed before coming to court, can you read anything? Yes, Kena. But you did not recover this as evidence, because you were not directed to? Yes
Looking at the torn sign. Do you think a razor did that? No. You started collecting evidence at 11:15pm, about how long does it take? 2 hours maybe. What do you do when you leave a scene? Try to secure as best as possible. Do people sometimes trash a place after the police leave? Yes
Some questions about TV show CSI and getting DNA from cigarette butts.
Questions about officers leaving the police force, some go back to the mainland, others get jobs locally.
Sulla objects…Hara overrules…make this the last question.
10:37am Damerville finishes redirect…witness excused subject to recall
State calls Rev Kenny Miyamoto Slaughter Read more

Puna News — John Tak Arrested On Allegations Of Sexual Assault

John Tak

Detectives question whether this was an isolated incident or if additional similar events have gone unreported.

(Media release) — Big Island police have arrested a 22-year-old Puna man in connection with the 2010 sexual assault of a female hitchhiker. John Tak was taken into custody last Thursday (August 25) without incident at his Puna home. Friday evening (August 26) detectives from the Area I Juvenile Aid Section charged him with two counts of first-degree sexual assault, kidnapping and second-degree theft.

The charges stem from a report police received on August 4, 2010, from an adult female who said that between 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m she was hitchhiking on Highway 11 in the area of the Panaewa Zoo. A young man unknown to her stopped and offered her a ride. She reported that he drove her into the Hawaiian Acres subdivision, where he sexually assaulted her.

Tak is being held at the Hilo police cellblock in lieu of $250,000 pending his initial court appearance scheduled for Monday (August 29) in South Hilo District Court.

Detectives have not yet determined whether this was an isolated incident or if additional similar events have gone unreported.

(Submitted by Hawaii Police Department via Nixle.)

Environment — UHH Fall Commencement Address; Sig Zane Adornment

Depicted is Sig Zane fabric decorating the pots of plants that adorned the chancellor's fall Commencement Address, which occurred this afternoon at University of Hawaii-Hilo. Photo by Tiffany Edwards Hunt. All rights reserved. Use with permission only.

Kona News — U.S. Sen. Inouye To See $32 ML Ane Keohokalole Highway And Interpretive Center This Week

(Media release) — U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye will tour portions of the $32 million Ane Keohokalole Highway and the adjoining cultural interpretive center at 4 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 31 2011. Participants will gather at Kamakaheha Avenue.

The $1 million interpretive center focuses on the culture of the ahupua‘a of Keahuolu through a 16th century farm, or kauhale. The center will also be a repository for artifacts found in the area, and offer a resting place for Native Hawaiian remains. The interpretive center in this culturally rich area is expected to be completed by the end of the year, and was designed by Kari Kimura, a Kona native who attended MIT. The center helps perpetuate assets of the Queen Liliuokalani Trust, which is mandated to oversee the welfare of orphaned and destitute children. Read more

Guest Column — Religious Use Of Marijuana Trial, Day Five

By Matt Rifkin

Rev Nancy trial day 5

(To view Rifkin’s coverage of day four, click here.)

Court was running a few minutes late. Detective Prudencio returned to the stand. The jury entered, and once seated, it became clear that juror #4 seat was vacant. Judge Hara enters, and explains there was a medical emergency, and the bailiff confirmed the juror was at the ER. Judge Hara excuses the juror, and the first alternate now moves to juror seat #4, and alternate #2 moves to alternate #1.

Damerville resumes questioning Prudencio. It is going over the evidence, item by item, again a methodical progression, confirming signatures on evidence forms, dates, why some items were turned in at different times, what is the condition of the packaging and the materials, then and now, why has it changed? Confirming weights of dried marijuana found in the freezer, 258 grams. Is the scale in the vice section regularly calibrated? Yes.

Damerville asks “is it true you collected (exhibit 202a) from a specific place?”
Prudencio: Yes, from the residence of Nancy Harris
Damerville: Was it a residence or the “Sacred Truth Mission”?
Prudencio: My opinion it was a residence

Back to going over where the marijuana was found. Was it field tested, what locations was the evidence collected from, how it is field tested? Read more

Hilo News — Reeds Bay Beach Park To Close Tomorrow Through December For Improvements

Image courtesy of

(Media release) —  The County Department of Parks & Recreation intends to close Reeds Bay Beach Park from tomorrow, Monday, Aug. 29, through Dec. 31, 2011, for park improvements that will include new accessible walkways with integrated seat walls; grassing and landscaping; and new park amenities such as outdoor showers, a drinking fountain and picnic tables.

The adjacent graveled parking area and shoreline will remain open to the public, though construction activities may impact that area as well from time to time.  For boaters moored in Reed’s Bay that require access during this closure, the contractor is required to accommodate launching and retrieval of watercraft subject to the location and progress of their work.  All other recreational boaters (kayakers, paddle boarders, beachgoers, etc.) are required to use a different venue for their recreational activities — such as the nearby Kūhiō Kalaniana‘ole Park or Hilo Bayfront Beach Park.

The department apologizes for any inconvenience this temporary closure may cause and thanks the public in advance for their cooperation as we strive to improve our community for the benefit of all.

(Submitted by Kevin Dayton.)

Letters — Mahalo For Posting Friends Of The Future Online Auction Heads-Up

Thank you Tiffany!

Your posting  (Hawaii News — ‘Going Once… Going Twice’ Online Auction Raises Money For Friends Of The Future) resulted in a bid on an item. We got a call from a bidder who lives in San Francisco, and she told me she found out about the item from you.

Michelle Taira Medeiros
Resource Development Leader
Friends of the Future
a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization 
dedicated to creating trust and harmony
among the diverse cultures of Hawai`i 
through a process where all people can 
openly contribute their deepest values,
create shared visions, and
continuously improve their communities.
808-885-8336   |   PO Box 2655   |   Kamuela, Hawai`i  96743  |

***Commentary*** Regarding The Pahoa Bon Dance

My friends the Franciscos and I took our children to the Pahoa Bon Dance last night.  What an awesome event — a community dance. What a truly, heartwarming experience.  Maybe it’s because I’m one of those mixed breed Americans that really can’t claim any particular culture, but I was completely and totally taken with the dancing, the music, the kimonos, the mochi, the worship — the whole experience. I mostly observed the dancing, recorded videos and took photographs, but I did make a point to go around the circle at least once, trying to follow along to the dance moves out of respect for the custom and in honor of my ancestors.  Those unaware of the significance of the Obon Festival can see here that it stems from ancestral worship and has evolved into a community reunion. At one point, when the drums and flute were played, I watched the dancers go in a circle and I had a flash of my Native American ancestors. It was one of those moments of seeing how alike we all really are.

It was really nice to see the Japanese community of Pahoa so alive! I sense the Japanese influence all the time in Pahoa Village but, beyond the yearly Obon at the YBA Hall, the Japanese culture is pretty dormant. In fact, I’m always walking by the empty and locked-up YBA Hall, wishing it was used more for community activities. I gave myself a tour of the YBA Hall on Saturday night and was captivated by all the framed photographs of old Pahoa buildings, cemetery plots, and even the large sheets of paper detailing the family names associated with Pahoa cemetery plots.  I also was taken by the ornate ombutsan, or Japanese altar, the candles, incense and anthurium offerings.

It was quite the town affair, I saw many people I knew in Puna, including Councilman Fred and his wife Betty Blas.  I also saw people I knew from Hilo, who obviously have ancestral ties to Puna and that particular hongwanji that hosted the Bon Dance.

 I posted several videos of the Bon Dance on my Facebook (see link above and both  here and here). Some of my friends in Puna who weren’t able to make the dance were grateful to catch of glimpse. One friend observed the lantern lights strung for the bon dance in the videos, and suggested how great it would be for all of Pahoa town to be strung with those sort of lights.  Mainstreet Pahoa Association, for which I’m serving as president of the board this year, is trying to plan a Pahoa World Fair next year.  Why not have the world fair coincide with the Hachigatsu Bon, or Bon Dance in August?