Bounty hunter pleads not guilty in ramming incident

An East Hawaii bounty hunter accused of ramming a fugitive’s car with his pickup truck last year pleaded not guilty Wednesday to several charges associated with the incident.

No trial date has yet been set for 43-year-old Benny William Gordon of Pahoa, who entered not guilty pleas to charges of first-degree criminal property damage, second-degree reckless endangering and two counts each of third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Hilo Circuit Judge Glenn Hara accepted Gordon’s plea, but said the case will likely be heard by Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura, who will set a trial date when the case is transferred to his court. Hara set a “further proceedings” hearing for Gordon on Feb. 18, but if the case is transferred by then, Gordon will not have to appear on that date.

Gordon, a fugitive recovery agent for 4Freedom Bail Bonds, is alleged to have engaged in a high-speed chase through Keaukaha on Sept. 4 in pursuit of Raylad Brown, who was wanted on a warrant. Gordon is alleged to have used his vehicle to ram the sedan Brown was driving several times, including once into a rock wall on private property, before chasing Brown down on foot and apprehending him. Police said when they arrested Gordon, he was in possession of two glass pipes with crystal methamphetamine residue.

Gordon denied ramming the car. He said he was following at a distance when Brown missed a curve and ran into the wall on his own. He said he tried to pin Brown in but he got away, and that Brown actually rammed Gordon’s truck with the sedan when they encountered each other again. He also said the pipes belonged to Brown.

Gordon also told Stephens Media Hawaii last week that he believes the charges were filed because of a vendetta against him by Deputy Prosecutor Jason Skier, who is the lead prosecutor in the case. Skier wasn’t present at the hearing, which was handled by Deputy Prosecutor Kevin Hashizaki.

Gordon’s case garnered the attention of bounty hunter Duane “Dog” Chapman, who told Stephens Media Hawaii that tighter regulations are needed for bounty hunters in Hawaii, including requirements that they be licensed as bail bondsmen and that individuals convicted on felony charges in the past 10 years shouldn’t be allowed to be bounty hunters. Gordon has felony convictions from 2007 and 2008.

Gordon is free on $125,000 total bail for these charges and for another case in which he’s facing firearms and methamphetamine trafficking charges. One of the conditions of Gordon’s release is that he have no contact with Brown.

Gordon’s bond was posted by his employer, 4Freedom owner Scot Ling, who described Gordon as “good at what he does.”

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