Mitch Kahle

BY JIM DOOLEY – In one Capitol committee room today, lawmakers were asked to pay $100,000 to public prayer protestor Mitch Kahle. In another, legislators discussed a measure aimed at stopping people like Kahle from disrupting legislative proceedings.

Mitch Kahle

Kahle was ejected from the state Senate gallery in 2010 after he vocally objected to a public prayer delivered at the start of that day’s session.

Kahle was acquitted of misdemeanor criminal charges in that incident. He and a cameraman with him at the Senate protest filed suit against the state, alleging that their civil rights had been violated.

Today, Attorney General David Louie asked the House Judiciary Committee to approve paying a $100,000 settlement to Kahle and the cameraman, Kevin Hughes, in the civil case.

According to Louie, “some sort of scuffle” broke out between Hughes and deputy sheriffs after he and Kahle had been removed from the Senate.

Kahle then “bolted” towards Hughes and was tackled and arrested by sheriffs, Louie said.

Hughes continued filming but “in the melee, his camera was shoved into his face causing minor injuries and damaging the video camera,” Louie told lawmakers.

If the settlement is approved by the House, it will be transferred to the Senate for further consideration.

Members of the Senate Public Safety, Government and Military Affairs committee chaired by Sen. Will Espero, meanwhile, were discussing a measure authorizing legislators to “take action against disorderly or contemptuous behavior or breach of the peace at the Legislature.”

Although the measure is informally known as the “Stop Mitch Kahle bill,” Espero said the measure “is not being considered for any single person, issue or organization.”

And the bill is “not intended to interfere with anyone’s existing First Amendment rights,” Espero, D-20th Dist. (Ewa Beach), said.

The committee passed the measure after incorporating changes suggested by the Attorney General’s office.

Kahle testified against the bill at an earlier hearing, predicting that its  passage would guarantee additional protests and court suits.

He called the bill “is unnecessary, ineffective and will really create a risk to taxpayers.”

Kahle was not present at today’s hearing. Committee member Sam Slom, R-8th Dist (Hawaii Kai) said today  questioned the accuracy of portions of Kahle’s earlier testimony about his civil case.

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Jim Dooley joined the Hawaii Reporter staff as an investigative reporter in October 2010. Before that, he has worked as a print and television reporter in Hawaii since 1973, beginning as a wire service reporter with United Press International. He joined Honolulu Advertiser in 1974, working as general assignment and City Hall reporter until 1978. In 1978, he moved to full-time investigative reporting in for The Advertiser; he joined KITV news in 1996 as investigative reporter. Jim returned to Advertiser 2001, working as investigative reporter and court reporter until 2010. Reach him at Jim@hawaiireporter.com