HONOLULU (AP) — Allegations of physical abuse against a 91-year-old Hawaiian heiress require further investigation, a judge ruled Thursday.
The ruling came in the ongoing legal fight for control over Abigail Kawananakoa’s $215 million trust. Many Native Hawaiians consider her to be the last Hawaiian princess because she’s a descendent of the family that ruled the islands before the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom.
Her longtime lawyer, James Wright persuaded a judge to appoint him as trustee, arguing a stroke over the summer left her impaired. Kawananakoa claims she’s fine, and has since fired that lawyer and married her girlfriend of 20 years.
In court documents, Wright alleged that the heiress’ wife, Veronica Gail Worth, physically abused her. However, Kawananakoa’s attorney said in court papers the abuse claims are false and that Kawananakoa fell and “struck furniture, which caused the bruising, which is not uncommon at someone her age.”
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The judge in September appointed a special master — a lawyer not involved in the case — to independently investigate her mental capacity and the abuse allegations. Lawyers for Kawananakoa and Worth requested that the abuse allegations not be part of the special master’s probe because they’re untrue.
Judge Robert Browning denied the request, saying that the allegations are relevant to the case. Browning also denied The Associated Press’ request to use a digital recorder during the hearing for note-taking purposes, but allowed Honolulu news station Hawaii News Now to film the proceeding.
Kawananakoa entered the courtroom with the help of a wheelchair and a white Chihuahua sat on her lap during Thursday’s hearing. “I can’t talk about the case but I have a lot to say,” she said, as she was wheeled into a courthouse elevator.