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Child abuse conviction leads to prison sentence


Child abuse conviction leads to prison sentence

November 21, 2008

A 52-year-old woman has been sentenced to five years in prison after admitting to eight counts of assaulting her daughter's children in a Wai'anae home called a "house of torture" by prosecutors.

Circuit Judge Virginia Crandall imposed the sentence despite arguments from Deputy Prosecutor Lori Wada that the defendant, Rita Makekau, deserved a total of 41 years behind bars.

Three of the victims were in court and said in written statements that their aunt and co-defendants in the case, Gabriel and Barbara Kalama, beat, starved, and threatened to kill the children over a period of four years when they were between 10 and 14 years of age.

In addressing the judge, Makekau seemed unrepentant and cited the biblical admonition "not to spare the rod" in disciplining children.

Outside court, Makekau declined comment other than to stress that she should be called "her Royal Highness" because she serves as the Royal Minister of Foreign Affairs for a Hawaiian sovereignty group.

Makekau pleaded no contest to eight counts of assaulting the children and a single count of abuse of a family or household member.

She plans to appeal the case, arguing that as a Native Hawaiian she is not subject to the jurisdiction of state courts.

Crandall allowed her to remain free until the deadline for filing that appeal occurs Dec. 22.

Prosecutor Wada said after the hearing that Crandall's sentence is "a miscarriage of justice."

Wada said the children were "very angry and very upset" by the five-year sentence.

Wada said she learned of new incidents of child abuse just this morning when a social worker read statements about what had been done to them.

Makekau or the Kalamas allegedly shoved a broom handle down the throat of one child, according to one statement. Two children reported that the defendants on multiple occasions filled a bathtub and threatened to drown them.

The Kalamas will be sentenced by Crandall Monday.

Reach Jim Dooley at jdooley@honoluluadvertiser.com.

2008 Nov 21