‘Bandits’ trial inching toward settlement
Plea agreements have been offered to the five men accused of murder in the beating death of professional surfer Emery Kauanui. Details of the deal have not been disclosed, but on Monday, Judge John Einhorn said that it could lessen each of the defendant’s exposure in the case.
The judge disclosed that he met with the attorneys for the accused in chambers, and was informed that several of them were considering changing their not guilty pleas. The defendants are all expected back in court on Friday, June 27.
Accused in the case are Seth Cravens, 22; Eric House, 21; Orlando Osuna, 23; Matthew Yanke, 21; and Henri Hendricks, 22. They each face a maximum of 15 years to life in prison if convicted of murder.
According to reports, the attorney for Cravens, Mary Ellen Attridge has stated that the deal offered to her client is unacceptable and he will be going to trial. At least one other defendant is considering a trial and the three remaining defendants are expected to enter into a plea agreement on Friday.
Cravens is the defendant accused of delivering the final blow to Kauanui. He has changed attorneys and has filed a lawsuit against the Pacific Law Center, which initially represented him. Cravens’ family is seeking reimbursement of $175,000 in legal fees, claiming that Pacific Law Center made false and misleading statements, misused attorney fees and conducted unlawful business practices.
Attridge, his current attorney, told reporters, “We have a very good case at trial. He’s (Cravens) a very young man.” She accused prosecutors of overstating their case and said “I’m not going to plead him (Cravens) to those sorts of counts.”
On June 10, an attorney for one of the accused had informed the Light that a settlement agreement was being considered. Around the court some concerns had been expressed that the trial might be delayed up to 10 months because some clients might have to change attorneys.
Three of the five men accused in the case have private attorneys. All of the defendants are in their early 20s with no means of support.
After a preliminary hearing which lasted eight days last month, Einhorn ruled that the defendants should stand trial for murder but dismissed allegations that the attack was gang-related. The judge said he wasn’t satisfied that he had a “clear, factual, resulting picture of what happened” the night the victim was injured. Einhorn has also expressed concern about the case being filed as a murder charge.
The defendants are all charged with second-degree murder and if convicted could face 15 years to life in prison.