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Amazon will not pull ‘Peter Boy’ books

Updated: 
August 24, 2017 - 12:05am

HILO — Amazon.com Inc. said it has no intention of pulling the Kindle online book series “Peter Boy: Hawaii’s Most Notorious Case of Child Abuse and Murder” from its website.

Corinne Mattli, a corporate counsel for the online merchandising giant, said in a July 31 letter Amazon “cannot be charged with reviewing, investigating, and determining the legality of the innumerable statements made in the millions of titles in our online catalog.”

Her communication was in response to a July 19 letter seeking Amazon’s withdrawal of the book series by Honolulu attorney Randall Rosenberg, who represents the estate of the late Peter Kema Jr. and Peter Boy’s siblings.

Mattli’s letter said Amazon “believe(s) strongly that providing open access to written speech, no matter how controversial, is one of the most important things we do” and is “a service that the United States Constitution protects.”

The letter suggested Rosenberg take his concerns to Lillian Koller, the author of the self-published four-part series. Koller was director of the state Department of Human Services under former Gov. Linda Lingle and wrote the book using Child Protective Service documents she possessed through her former position. The documents were released by Koller in redacted form in 2005 and remained in the public domain until 2010.

“You can be certain that, if the publisher elects to withdraw these titles or a court determines … that these books violate your clients’ rights, we will promptly honor any corresponding direction not to distribute them,” Mattli wrote.

Rosenberg’s original letter to Amazon Senior Vice President David Zapolsky said Koller’s series invades the privacy of Peter Boy’s siblings and violates a 1999 Hawaii Supreme Court decision.

The high court ruled in Kema v. Gaddis that the requested release of Family Court files to the Honolulu Advertiser in the case of Peter Boy, who was 6 when he died in 1997 as a result of chronic abuse, “would be harmful to Peter Boy’s siblings” and that release of even redacted versions of the files “is not in their best interest.”

Peter Boy’s parents, Peter Kema Sr. and Jaylin Kema, were convicted separately of manslaughter this year in connection with the boy’s death. Kema Sr. is serving a 20-year prison term. Jaylin Kema, who cooperated with authorities, was sentenced to 10 years probation and a year in jail, already served.

Rosenberg said Wednesday he has contacted a law firm that specializes in business law “who is taking a close look at this and deciding whether or not to accept a claim against Amazon and others, like Koller, for the matters that were pointed out in the initial letter.”

“They’re looking at the case currently on behalf of (Peter Boy’s siblings),” Rosenberg said, adding he’s not at liberty to identify the firm unless they decide to accept the case.

“I want to make sure that they’re in the hands of somebody that’s capable and has experience in that area. Amazon is the juggernaut in the industry, so it has to be someone who is very experienced and quite confident on what the outcome is going to be before they launch into it.”

Rosenberg said the siblings, Allan Acol, Chauntelle Acol and Lina Acol “understand that the Peter Boy stuff has been out there for a long time.”

“They don’t have a problem with that,” he said. “But there are specific events and episodes mentioned that have to do with abuse that they sustained — and in some cases, really heinous abuse. … These are things that are very personal that were not allowed to be disclosed by … the Gaddis decision, that they never expected to have to deal with in their adult lives. There are records that are supposed to be sealed.”

Rosenberg noted Chauntelle and Lina each have a young child.

“There will be a time that they are able to read and find out what’s out there, with respect to their, by now, well-known mothers,” he said. “I think they want to make the decision on whether they want to disclose such things to their children, and, if so, when. And what’s going on with this book is that this is being disclosed for them without their consent and without any idea of what the potential consequences would be.”

Rosenberg said he thinks Koller’s series, two volumes of which are published with two more planned, has re-victimized the Acols.

“I have a hard time imagining what goes through this woman’s head as she publishes these books,” he said. “… I don’t know what her purpose is other than is she going to make a buck out of this thing. Is that the entire purpose? Has she been planning that since she got involved in the early 2000s … that she thought this was a great story, it would make a great book, and she was going to be the one to write it and profit from it? I just have a hard time getting my head around the whole thing.”

Koller didn’t respond to voice mail and email messages by press time.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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