BY JIM DOOLEY – Surveillance video taken during a fatal shooting in Waikiki last year shows U.S. State Department security agent Christopher Deedy “identifying himself as a law enforcement officer” before being “attacked” by the man he later shot, according to court papers filed today.
Kollin Elderts, 23, of Kaneohe, was fatally shot during an altercation with Deedy inside a Kuhio Avenue McDonalds restaurant before the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation conference began in early November.
Deedy has been charged with murder but his defense lawyer, Brook Hart, argues that Deedy should be immune from state prosecution because he was acting in his official capacity as a federal law enforcement officer.
The video shows that after Deedy id’d himself, Elderts and his friend Shane Medeiros attacked Deedy and a friend and then Elderts was fatally wounded by a single gunshot to the chest, according to Hart.
The “video is compelling evidence in support of Special Agent Deedy’s motion to dismiss (the) indictment,” Hart argued.
Hart maintains that Deedy, who is free on bail and living in Virginia, acted in self defense and in defense of others.
The videotape, and still photographs taken from it, are attached to a defense motion to dismiss the case. The motion has been sealed from public view at the request of Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro’s office.
Circuit Judge Karen Ahn will hold a hearing Thursday on whether to continue withholding the evidence from the public until the scheduled start of the murder trial.
Today, Ahn allowed three news media organizations, including Hawaii Reporter, Hawaii News Now and the Star-Advertiser, to argue in Thursday’s hearing that the records should be unsealed.
Deputy Prosecutor Jan Futa said in her motion to seal the videotape and photographs that their public release would create harmful and prejudicial pretrial publicity about the case.
Hart said in response that prosecutors “must articulate compelling reasons…and support the reasons with specific factual findings” if the motion to seal is to be granted.
The state has failed to do so, said Hart in a new motion filed today.
News media lawyers Jeffrey Portnoy and Elijah Yip said in asking that the records be opened to public scrutiny that the Hawaii Supreme Court has held that judicial records are presumed to be open unless the state can cite “strong countervailing reasons” for sealing them.
Prosecutors cited no such reasons and did not “cite a single case or statute for support,” Portnoy and Yip argued.
And they pointed out that it is customarily defendants who argue for closure of records to protect themselves from prejudicial publicity.
But Deedy wants the records open to public scrutiny because they would tend to offset substantial negative publicity he said he has already received in the news media and in online commentaries, said Portnoy and Yip.
Surveillance video of what happened at McDonald’s “should reduce rather than add to any confusion that might have resulted from the pretrial publicity in the case thus far” the media lawyers asserted.
The three media organizations opposing closure of the records are the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Hawaii Reporter and HawaiiNewsNow.