The trial for a Seattle-area couple accused of assaulting protesters on the University of Washington campus on inauguration night 2017 will begin Monday without the testimony of one key player: the victim who was shot and critically wounded.
King County Superior Court documents indicate that Joshua Phelan Dukes, a 35-year-old avowed anarchist, who suffered a gunshot wound to the abdomen during raucous protests in the UW’s Red Square over the appearance of alt-right polemicist Milo Yiannopoulos, has refused to cooperate with attorneys, ignored subpoenas and won’t appear at the trial for his alleged assailant, Elizabeth Joy Hokoana.
Hokoana, 31, is charged with first-degree assault and faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted. Her husband, Marc Hokoana, also 31, is charged with third-degree assault and could be jailed for up to three months for using pepper spray against anti-fascist protesters who gathered outside Kane Hall that night.
Elizabeth Hokoana, who was armed with a Glock 9 mm handgun, claims she shot Dukes, a computer security expert and member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), in self-defense when he confronted her husband for using pepper spray. She said Dukes was armed with a knife.
In a statement issued Monday through his attorney, as the court began picking a jury for a trial, Dukes explained that he refuses to testify “because punitive justice does not bring closure or healing and will not prevent similar violence in the future.” Dukes had sought to meet face-to-face with the Hokoanas, as part of his belief in “restorative justice,” but they have refused.
“The result of the Hokoanas’ trial, guilty or not, will only affirm their actions, by state sanction or by martyrdom, and perpetuate the cycle of trauma and violence,” Dukes wrote. “Justice can only exist in a world where no one is so marginalized, isolated, or traumatized that people like the Hokoanas believe the only way they can get what they want is through violence.”
Dukes, a computer security expert, said he and his partner have become first-time parents in recent weeks and he wants them to “live in a world driven by compassion.”
“The only way I know how to make that world exist is by being present and mindful myself,” he said. “This trial is a distraction from that and is not worth my focus. I have more important things to do.”
Jury selection is expected to take at least two days because of the amount of publicity the shooting attracted, according to the trial docket. The trial is expected to last at least 25 days and involve more than 60 witnesses. Senior Deputy King County Prosecutor Raam Wong, according to a 42-page trial brief filed on Wednesday, will rely on other witnesses to tell the jury what happened to Dukes that night.
According to defense documents, Dukes last week refused to comply with a subpoena and failed to show up at a defense deposition. He has told prosecutors he will not testify, although he could be served with a material-witness warrant and forcibly put on the witness stand. The prosecution states in documents it does not intend to do that. The defense says if prosecutors change their mind, they will seek a mistrial.
Dukes has repeatedly said he does not trust and will not participate in the criminal justice system.
Charges filed more than two years ago accuse Elizabeth Hokoana of first-degree assault with a firearm enhancement, for shooting Dukes, an anti-fascist organizer who purportedly was working as a “peace keeper” during the protests, according to police and court documents.
Elizabeth Hokoana has admitted she shot Dukes, but she claims she was justified. The trial will turn on whether or not the jury finds she reasonably believed that she or her husband faced an imminent threat of serious bodily harm or death — the legal standard for self-defense. Her attorney, Steven Wells, did not return messages seeking comment. However, in a 24-page trial brief, he said it is not clear at this point whether Elizabeth Hokoana will testify.
The Hokoanas have called 31 witnesses for the defense, most of them police officers. The state has listed as many as 33 witnesses at trial.
In his trial brief, Wells states the defense plans to introduce social-media postings by Dukes showing he “made numerous … postings regarding his views of the Milo event and his approval, and even advocacy, of the use of violence against attendees of the Milo event.”
The state will counter by seeking to introduce Facebook and other social-media postings by Marc Hokoana that prosecutors say indicate he went to Kane Square that night looking for a fight with his gun-toting wife as backup. “If the snowflakes get out of hand,” he purportedly wrote, using a pejorative term for liberals often used by Trump supporters, “I’m just going to wade through their ranks and start cracking skulls.”
In response, one of Hokoana’s friends asked if he was going to carry a gun. Marc Hokoana indicated he was not but then added that his wife would be “carrying.”
Prosecutors hope to rely on extensive cellphone video of the incident, including the shooting, which has been enhanced and interpreted by experts on both sides. Prosecutors state that Marc Hokoana can be seen confronting some of the protesters with his wife close behind him, her hand in her jacket. At one point, prosecutors say Marc Hokoana can be heard saying to his wife, “Calm down! Don’t shoot anyone.”
“But Marc Hokoana was not interested in calming anyone down,” wrote prosecutor Wong. “What he says next reveals his true intentions.” Wong states that Hokoana reportedly turns to another man in a red “Make America Great Again” hat, and declares: “They have to start it! They have to start it!”
Dukes was shot just before 8:30 p.m. and collapsed into the arms of another protester. The bullet tore through his abdomen, hit several internal organs and lodged in his back, according to trial documents. He underwent several surgeries and was listed in critical condition for days. Prosecutors say the video shows Marc and Elizabeth Hokoana leaving the area as Dukes fell.
Just before 11:30 p.m., Marc and Elizabeth Hokoana walked into the UW police station. According to the trial documents, Marc Hokoana had his hands in the air and said, “I am here to report a self-defense shooting,” stating the gun used was in the trunk of his wife’s car parked nearby. He was arrested and initially believed to be the shooter, while his wife waited for him in the lobby. The trial briefs indicate that she had to ask to be considered a suspect before she was eventually arrested.
A self-defense claim shifts the burden onto the state to prove that no imminent threat existed to justify the use of deadly force, and without a victim to testify, prosecutors will have to rely on other witnesses and evidence to meet that burden, according to trial documents.
Elizabeth Hokoana — who documents say had a valid concealed-carry permit for a firearm and once appeared in a national photo shoot called “Guns Across America” carrying an assault-style rifle — has said Dukes had a knife.
However, Wong, the prosecutor, points out that she never made that claim until after evidence surfaced publicly that police found two knives in Dukes’ clothing after he had been shot.
The state will rely heavily on the fact that the couple went to the event armed — he with pepper spray and her with the handgun — as proof of their intentions that night.
Social-media posts captured by police and reviewed by The Seattle Times before they were taken down indicated that Marc Hokoana was a Trump supporter and a fan of Yiannopoulos and the National Rifle Association. An hour before the shooting, he posted to Yiannopoulos’s Facebook page that he had already been in a confrontation while waiting in line at Kane Hall.
“Hey Milo,” he wrote. “im outside in line to your UW event.
“I got sucker punched (he was a bit limp wristed) and someone jacked my #MAGA hat,” he said, referring to the ubiquitous red and white “Make America Great Again” caps worn by supporters of President Donald Trump.
“Anyway for me to get a replacement signed by you?” Marc Hokoana asked.
Yiannopoulos did not respond, and the man went on to be caught up in a raucous confrontation between those trying to get inside the UW’s Kane Hall to see Yiannopoulos and protesters trying to keep them out.