In brief | State 10/27/13


Eds: Updates with details, background.

HONOLULU (AP) — A Marine accused of killing a prostitute visiting Hawaii will be court-martialed, the Marine Corps announced Friday.

Master Sgt. Nathaniel Cosby is charged with murder in the death of Ivanice “Ivy” Harris, who was visiting Hawaii from Las Vegas.

An Article 32 hearing, the military’s equivalent of a preliminary hearing in civilian court, was held last month to determine whether he should be court-martialed. During that hearing, a Honolulu police detective testified that surveillance footage showed Cosby and Harris meeting outside a Waikiki bar and that they were later seen kissing in the elevator of the hotel where he was staying. Several hours later, the footage showed, Cosby was alone in the elevator and pulling a large duffel bag, which he loaded in the back of a sport utility vehicle.

Originally from Oregon, Harris was visiting Hawaii to celebrate her 29th birthday with her boyfriend, who was also her pimp, and two other women, Det. Dru Akagi said.

Her body was found May 20 in a remote area about 40 miles west of Waikiki.

The prosecution’s theory is that Cosby drove almost to the western-most point of the island to scout a location to dump the body, returned to Pearl Harbor for work and then later dumped the body at about midnight, then returned to the hotel.

Cosby is an explosive ordnance disposal technician with Marine Wing Support Squadron-171 in the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing based in Iwakuni, Japan. He was on temporary duty assignment in Hawaii in May.

The 39-year-old is being held at a military detention facility in Pearl Harbor.

An arraignment hearing is scheduled for Nov. 21 at Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

“Unlike the civilian justice system, the military justice system is a portable system with world-wide application,” Marine Corps Forces Pacific spokesman Brade Bartelt said. “As our history demonstrates, military members can be tried for offenses anytime, anywhere. Nevertheless, Marines accused of crimes are presumed innocent until proven guilty. As such, we are committed to ensuring that the rights of any Marine accused of a crime are preserved.”

Honolulu police began the investigation into Harris’ disappearance and death, but the Naval Criminal Investigative Service took over the case.

LIHUE, Hawaii (AP) — A Kauai County proposal to change the permit process for structures damaged by Hurricane Iniki could mean the end of restoration plans for the resort where Elvis Presley filmed “Blue Hawaii.”

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Friday (http://bit.ly/HkAjWb) that tour guide Bob Jasper says repealing the “Iniki Ordinance” would mean the death of Coco Palms Resort.

Kauai’s council held a hearing Wednesday to consider the plan backed by Mayor Bernard Carvalho. Carvalho told the county planning commission in a June letter that property owners looking to rebuild have had ample time to use the ordinance’s expedited permit process.

“Coco Palms should be made an exception to the ordinance,” testified Larry Rivera, the resort’s former music director.

A local investment group is trying to buy and restore it. Coco Palms Hui LLC is seeking demolition and building permits. The resort is currently owned by Maryland-based Petrie Ross Ventures.

The hotel has been closed since the 1992 storm.

Developer Tyler Greene, a managing partner with Bridge Real Estate Hawaii, said permits under the expedited process would let them skip an environmental impact statement.

The county planning department is reviewing suspended demolition permits for the resort.

Architect Ron Agor, who was hired by developers for the project, says he’s working with county officials to get the permits back on track.

“Until we come to an agreement with the county on what we need to do, the county wanted to be assured that we would not start the demolition process,” Agor said.

———

Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com

Associated Press

Eds: Trims in last paragraph.

HONOLULU (AP) — A federal appeals court “regretfully” upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit that claims the Army caused the death of a newborn by ordering his pregnant mother to do physical training against doctors’ instructions.

January Ritchie was about 5 1/2 months pregnant when she went into premature labor while stationed in Hawaii in 2006.

Her son Gregory died 30 minutes after birth. Her husband, Jonathan Ritchie, filed a wrongful death lawsuit, claiming commanding officers ignored his wife’s pleas not to perform physical duties such as picking up trash and battle-focused training.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Thursday that it was “regretfully” issuing an opinion saying a lower court was right to dismiss the case. The ruling criticized what’s known as the Feres doctrine, which prevents civil action against the government for those injured during military service, and said it’s unfortunate the doctrine bars the lawsuit.

“For the past 63 years, the Feres doctrine has been criticized by ‘countless courts and commentators’ across the jurisprudential spectrum,” states the opinion authored by Judge Jacqueline H. Nguyen. “However, neither Congress nor the Supreme Court has seen fit to reverse course.”

The doctrine is “archaic” and based in part on protecting the government from being sued over actions to win a war, said Greg Jacob, policy director for the New York-based Service Women’s Action Network, which is pushing for exemptions to the doctrine for crime victims.

“What’s happened over the decades is that the federal courts system has interpreted ‘incident to service’ as whatever happens in uniform,” Jacob said Friday. “It’s an example of how misguided the military is with regard to their personnel policies and giving commanders ultimate authority like this.”

Jacob, a former Marine Corps infantry commander, said the Ritchie case shows a need to change the military’s “command-centric” system that allows commanders to override recommendations of lawyers and doctors regarding troops.

Judge Dorothy W. Nelson wrote a separate, concurring opinion to “highlight how this case reveals the questionable validity of the Feres doctrine,” which she suggests is unfair toward servicewomen.

“Efforts to exclude pregnant women from serving, and even to punish women for becoming pregnant, continue to this day,” she wrote. “The right a pregnant woman has to serve means little if her service requires she put her fetus’s health and well-being at risk.”

The Ritchies now live in Tacoma, Wash., with their three children. January Ritchie is in the Army Reserves, said the couple’s Honolulu attorney, Eric Seitz, who is planning to petition the Supreme Court.

“We were not expecting to win,” he said, but they’re encouraged by the strong language in the opinion.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Honolulu didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

———

Follow Jennifer Sinco Kelleher at http://www.twitter.com/JenHapa.

Eds: APNewsNow.

HONOLULU (AP) — Crews have started the process of removing a carcass of a sperm whale found floating off Oahu.

KHON-TV reports (http://bit.ly/1avLyFm ) workers on Saturday morning began the disposal of the 30- to 40-foot carcass near He’eia Kea Pier.

The station says the removal has drawn several dozen onlookers.

Fishermen first spotted the carcass Wednesday four to five miles off the windward side of the island.

Officials say lifeguards are warning people to stay away from the water as the carcass is attractive to sharks. Lifeguards have already reported three sightings.

They say the shark warning will be in place for the rest of the day.

Marine mammal officials say towing a floating carcass away from the islands is easier and less expensive than removal from a beach.

———

Information from: KHON-TV, http://khon.com

Eds: APNewsNow.

HONOLULU (AP) — A United Airlines flight from Honolulu to San Francisco was abruptly canceled after passengers reported seeing smoke from an engine.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports (http://bit.ly/19IpJBy ) that Flight 724 had just started going down the runway Friday afternoon in Honolulu when passengers reported hearing a loud bang and seeing the smoke.

The aircraft returned to the terminal and all 325 passengers exited the plane. No injuries were reported.

United Airlines staff helped passengers make alternate arrangements to get to San Francisco.

———

Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.com