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Murder defendant to get new lawyer

August 21, 2014 - 6:39am

The alleged triggerman in a double homicide last year in Hilo will get a new lawyer.

Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura granted Sean Ivan Masa Matsumoto’s request Wednesday to replace Deputy Public Defender Jeff Ng with a court-appointed private attorney.

Matsumoto filed a complaint against Ng with the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel, Ng said after the hearing.

Matsumoto, 35, is accused of the Feb. 11, 2013, shotgun slayings of his girlfriend, 45-year-old Rhonda Lynn Alohalani Ahu, and her 74-year-old mother, Elaine Marie Ahu, in their Waiakea Houselots home.

Matsumoto is charged with first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder, use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, three other firearms charges, and reckless endangering. He’s being detained without bail at Hawaii Community Correctional Center.

If convicted of the first-degree murder charge, Matsumoto faces a mandatory sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

His trial is scheduled for Dec. 1, but it’s unlikely to start then, partly because a new lawyer will need to be appointed for Matsumoto and will need time to prepare.

In addition, the state’s lead attorney in the case, Deputy Prosecutor Darien Nagata, is out on family leave.

Matsumoto has been found fit to stand trial by two of three mental health professionals who examined him, and was ruled fit by Nakamura.

Before the ruling, Matsumoto had generally been quiet or soft-spoken in court hearings, but since then, he’s become argumentative and told the judge he would not appear for court hearings unless he’s granted another lawyer. He’s also requested a change of venue, but a written motion to move the trial has not been filed, according to court records.

In a July hearing, Matsumoto said his slain girlfriend was Mayor Billy Kenoi’s cousin and called the court proceedings “corrupted.”

He also told the judge Ng “thinks I’m guilty” and told the judge he couldn’t be properly represented by a lawyer who thinks he’s guilty.

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