Trial in case of Honolua Bay access, theft begins
By LILA FUJIMOTO, Staff Writer
POSTED: November 27, 2007
LAHAINA – Carrying bodyboards and a video camera hidden under a towel, two undercover police officers were walking toward the Honolua Bay shoreline when they were called back to a “donation” table set up on the trail last year.
Behind the table was Narciso Billianor Jr., who stood up and motioned for the officers to approach the table, said Lahaina patrol officer Steven Gunderson.
After he and the other officer said they weren’t interested in making a donation, Billianor’s young son motioned to his teenage brother to approach the officers, Gunderson said.
The 16-year-old boy “took a wide stance, he had a knife of some sort,” Gunderson said. “He kept flicking it open, staring us down.”
At the same time, Billianor “was telling us we need to make a donation because he owns the land and he takes care of the port-a-potties and the upkeep of the trail,” Gunderson said.
“I figured we weren’t going to be going to the beach,” he said. “I’d say it was a threat.”
Gunderson testified Monday in Billianor’s trial in Lahaina District Court.
The 58-year-old is charged with obstructing access to public property and attempted fourth-degree theft in the Nov. 26, 2006, incident, which was captured on videotape.
After at first telling the officers, “This is private property,” and asking for the donation, Billianor later is heard saying, “I don’t care about your money.”
Police organized the undercover operation to investigate reports of “extortion activity” at the popular snorkeling and bodyboarding spot, Gunderson said.
Randall Endo, vice president of community development for Maui Land & Pineapple Co., testified that the table with a sign saying “private property” and “$5 donation” was set up without permission on company land. He said the table was set up 30 to 40 yards from where the water meets the shoreline.
A similar “private property” sign also was put up without company permission on its locked gate along an upper portion of the trail just off Honoapiilani Highway, Endo said.
He described the unpaved trail as a “historical pathway” that goes downhill through vegetation and crosses Honolua Stream to a flat area near kuleana parcels by the shoreline. The key to the gate was given to Billianor as a “potential owner” of one kuleana parcel, which is the subject of a separate pending quiet-title court action, Endo said.
He said Maui Land & Pineapple Co. hasn’t restricted access on foot to the bay, where hundreds of tourists go to snorkel and swim daily. But he said there was no legal grant of easement for public use of the trail.
Endo said he didn’t know of a closing time for the bay, although Lahaina police officer Timothy Hodgens photographed a sign indicating that the bay was closed from 4:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. Hodgens said the “closed” sign was put up by Billianor family members after police arrested Billianor shortly after 4 p.m. that day.
Sgt. Ricky Uedoi recovered a cash box containing $256 that he said was on the table within arm’s reach of Billianor.
The trial is scheduled to continue Jan. 28 before Judge Simone C. Polak.
Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.