Elizabeth Hokoana pleaded not guilty to first-degree assault, with a firearm enhancement, stemming from the shooting; Marc Hokoana pleaded not guilty to third-degree assault over his alleged use of pepper spray.
A Seattle couple pleaded not guilty Wednesday to assault charges in the Jan. 20 shooting of a protester outside a speech at the University of Washington by former Breitbart editor and right-wing provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos.
Appearing at the King County Courthouse, Elizabeth Hokoana pleaded not guilty to one count of first-degree assault, with a firearm enhancement, stemming from the shooting.
Her husband, Marc Hokoana, pleaded not guilty to one count of third-degree assault over his alleged use of pepper spray.
Attorneys for the couple entered the pleas on their behalf.
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Bail was set at $10,000 for each defendant by King County Superior Court Judge Sean P. O’Donnell, who cited community safety and gave them 48 hours to remain free and make bail arrangements. Prosecutors had asked for $50,000 bail for each, saying they represented a potential danger to the community.
The judge barred the couple from possessing firearms and ordered them to keep away from the UW campus.
Prosecutors allege the two, both 29, had armed themselves — he with pepper-spray and she with a Glock semi-automatic handgun in a holster under her coat — and went to the protest intending to goad demonstrators they knew would be there.
The charges allege Elizabeth Hokoana fired a single round from the handgun into the stomach of Joshua Dukes, 34, a member of the Industrial Workers of the World, as Dukes confronted Marc Hokoana for using pepper spray in the crowd.
Dukes, an opponent of Yiannopoulos’ appearance, was critically wounded in the shooting, which attracted widespread attention.
If convicted as charged, Elizabeth Hokoana could face up to 15 years in prison. The standard sentencing range for third-degree assault is one to three months in jail, with no previous convictions, plus 12 months of community custody.
Steve Wells, the attorney for Elizabeth Hokoana, and Kim Gordon, Marc Hokoana’s attorney, have vowed to fight the charges on self-defense grounds.
In setting bail, O’Donnell read to himself supportive letters from family and friends of the Hokoanas. Nine of them stood at Wells’ request to bolster his argument that no bail was needed.
Wells also told the judge Elizabeth Hokoana had won an award in the fifth grade for being a peacekeeper.
After the hearing, Wells said Dukes had posted volatile Facebook comments before the Jan. 20 event.
“He was talking about the time for rational discussion between the left and right has ended and it is time to use violence,” Wells said of Dukes.
The shooting, Wells said, was the culmination of escalating violence in the crowd, leading to Dukes attacking Marc Hokoana.
“I’ve been an attorney for over 20 years,” he said. “At this point in time, this is as good of a self-defense case as I have seen.”
Dukes’ attorney, Sarah Lippek, said Wednesday her client did not post comments advocating violence.
Calling Wells’ statements “irresponsible,” she said he has not publicly produced any proof.
Lippek repeated her previous statement that the evidence won’t show anything that would justify the use of a deadly weapon against her client.
According to the charges, the day before Yiannopoulos was scheduled to talk at Kane Hall, Marc Hokoana had messaged a friend on Facebook, stating, “I can’t wait for tomorrow. I’m going to the milo event and if the snowflakes get out off hand I’m going to wade through their ranks and start cracking skulls.”
His friend asked him if he was “going to carry.”
Hokoana responded, “Nah, I’m going full melee,” but then wrote “Lily … is,” referring to his wife.
Wells characterized the comments as private and directed to a friend, and not directly threatening. He likened them to someone saying he hoped Tom Brady would break his leg before a Super Bowl game with the Seattle Seahawks.
“Do you really hope Tom Brady breaks his leg? No, you really don’t,” Wells said.
Elizabeth Hokoana has been placed on unpaid leave by her employer, and Marc Hokoana, who was a pre-med student at the University of Washington at the time of the shooting, has since been placed on leave, according to information revealed in court and after the hearing.