The King County Prosecutor’s Office will not seek a retrial in the assault case against Marc and Elizabeth Hokoana, accused in the near-fatal shooting of an anti-fascist protester on the University of Washington campus during a violent demonstration over the appearance of far-right firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos on Inauguration Day 2017.
A jury in King County Superior Court deadlocked in August after a five-week trial and five days of deliberations when the panel split over ideological lines, according to the jury foreman, and the shooting victim refused to testify.
Judge Kristen Richardson declared a mistrial and prosecutors have been weighing their chances on winning a unanimous verdict in a retrial. Whitney Keyes, a spokeswoman for King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg, said Friday the decision was that a retrial likely would yield the same result.
“Our office has carefully reviewed the evidence produced at trial and considered whether a retrial would be likely to produce a different outcome. We believe it unlikely that a retrial would produce a unanimous verdict,” Satterberg said in a statement. “In light of that, we have decided to dismiss this case.”
Satterberg declined to comment further.
The prosecution had been an uphill fight from the outset, made more so by the fact that the victim of the shooting, 35-year-old Joshua Dukes, refused to testify. He had said through an attorney, Abigail Cromwell, that he did not trust or believe in the punitive U.S. justice system. Before trial, Dukes — a computer-security expert — had asked to meet face-to-face with the Hokoanas, but they declined.
In a statement provided by Cromwell Friday night, Dukes said he was relieved the trial was over and felt mistrial was the “best possible outcome” from a “broken” system.
“The Hokoanas didn’t get to be the heroes nor the martyrs they wanted to be… They will have to live with what they’ve done and the criminal legal system never had the power to change that anyway,” Dukes said.
The trial resulted from a confrontation in Red Square on the University of Washington campus the night of Jan. 20, 2017. A large crowd of antifa protesters, fueled by outrage over the inauguration of President Donald Trump earlier, confronted a group of Trump supporters and others waiting to attend a scheduled appearance by former Breitbart editor and arch-conservative provocateur Yiannopoulos at Kane Hall. The confrontations turned violent, with fistfights and bottles, rocks and paint-bombs being thrown.
Evidence and testimony during the trial centered around video shot on phones and cameras during the raucous demonstrations. There were numerous fights and confrontations that night, which only escalated with the arrival of a large contingent of black-clad antifa protesters. In the middle of it all were the Hokoanas.
They were among the people waiting in line to see Yiannopoulos, and according to testimony and evidence presented at trial, they had come to the event armed and ready to goad any protesters who happened to get in their way. Marc was armed with a tactical knife and pepper spray. Elizabeth, who has a concealed-carry pistol permit, had a 9-mm handgun in a holster under her parka.
In a social-media exchange with a friend the night before the protests, Marc Hokoana had boasted, “If the snowflakes get out of hand” — using a pejorative term for liberals often used by Trump supporters — “I’m just going to wade through their ranks and start cracking skulls.” Prosecutors said he was involved in no fewer than five fights and scuffles that night.
Exactly what happened just before the shooting depended on who was telling the story, although much of what occurred was caught on the video, which was repeatedly shown to the jury. What is clear is that Marc Hokoana used pepper spray on some antifa protesters, and drew the attention of Dukes, a large and heavily tattooed avowed anarchist clad in a leather jacket, who rushed Marc and grabbed him. Elizabeth Hokoana, in often tearful testimony, said Dukes had a knife and said that she believed he was prepared to “gut” her husband — “It was him or my darling,” she told the jury. She fired a single shot from her Glock at almost point-blank range, the bullet ripping through Duke’s belly and lodging in his back.
Marc Hokoana testified that he was “terrified” and feared for his life in the moments before his wife pulled the trigger.
No knife was ever found, and nobody else who testified during the trial saw it. Dukes was critically injured and spent several weeks in the hospital.
After the shooting, the couple fled the campus and went home, but returned to the UW later that night, surrendered to police and claimed self-defense.
Prosecutors argued that the couple had gone to the campus looking for trouble, and found it. Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Raam Wong argued they acted recklessly and without thought of the danger they were placing themselves and others in.
Kim Gordon, the Seattle defense attorney who represented Marc Hokoana, said Friday that Satterberg’s decision “is a huge relief.” Her client faced six months in jail if convicted.
Steven Wells, who defended Elizabeth Hokoana on a felony assault charge, said his client was “relieved that they can be done with this and get on with their lives.” She faced up to 15 years in prison if she had been convicted.
The jury, during deliberations, split along ideological lines, said the jury foreman, who spoke at the time on condition of anonymity.
“The jury was biased,” the foreman, who asked to be identified only by his first name, Luke, said after the judge declared a mistrial in the case Aug. 13.
Luke was clearly frustrated and said a handful of jurors sympathized with and held similar conservative political views to Marc and Elizabeth Hokoana. That minority of jurors favored acquittal and the idea that Elizabeth Hokoana acted reasonably when she shot Dukes.
In the end, the foreman said, the panel had deadlocked 9-3 in favor of convicting Elizabeth Hokoana of first-degree felony assault for shooting Dukes. They deadlocked 7-5 in favor of convicting Marc Hokoana of misdemeanor assault, for using pepper spray on antifa protesters in the incident that precipitated the shooting.
The jury had asked in the middle of deliberations to rewatch an anti-bias video shown to prospective jurors in Superior Court. While prosecutors downplayed the idea that politics had played a significant role in the jury’s failure to reach a verdict, Wong, the senior deputy prosecutor who tried the case, said the decision to rewatch that video was unusual.