Man who fired weapon at lava evacuee pleads guilty to federal charge

  • JOHN BURNETT/Tribune-Herald file photo

    John William “Bill” Hubbard, left, appears June 4 in Hilo District Court with Deputy Public Defender Michael Ebesugawa.

KAILUA-KONA — A Leilani Estates man accused of firing a weapon at a lava evacuee during the Kilauea volcano eruption last year has pleaded guilty to a charge leveled against him in federal court.

John William Hubbard was charged in U.S. District Court in Honolulu with being a felon in possession of a firearm. The 61-year-old also faces several other weapon-related charges and terroristic threatening in Kona Circuit Court.

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On Monday, Hubbard pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm and ammunition as a convicted felon. In return for his guilty plea, the government agreed to recommend his sentence be served concurrently with any sentence he receives in the state case.

According to court documents, Hubbard faces up to 10 years in prison, with a fine up to $250,000 and a term of supervised release up to three years.

Charges stem from a May 29, 2018, incident in Puna during the eruption. A video on social media showed Hubbard allegedly threatening five people and firing multiple gunshots in the area.

One of victims in the incident, a 32-year-old man from Leilani Estates, told police that he and several acquaintances were surveying the area of his former residence that was taken by lava when a man, later identified as Hubbard, approached them in a pickup truck.

The suspect allegedly assaulted, then pointed a firearm at the victim and his group, demanding they immediately leave the area. During the argument, the suspect fired several gunshots from a handgun.

According to federal court documents filed Monday, Hubbard admitted the weapon he possessed during the incident was a Colt .38 Special caliber revolver.

“However, the defendant asserts that he no longer possesses the firearm and that it was destroyed by the lava flow on the Big Island,” court documents state.

The state charged Hubbard with five counts of first-degree terroristic threatening, two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment, place to keep pistol or revolver, first-degree robbery and carrying a firearm in commission of a separate felony.

Hubbard pleaded not guilty to those charges on June 19, 2018, in Hilo District Court. Both circuit judges in Hilo, Greg Nakamura and Henry Nakamoto, recused themselves from hearing the case, perhaps because Hubbard’s wife is a state Judiciary employee in Hilo. The case was moved to Kona, where Judge Melvin Fujino has been hearing the case.

On Feb. 20, Fujino granted a continuance on the matter relating to a motion to advance the state’s trial date. Hubbard is scheduled to appear Friday in Kona Circuit Court.

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A jury trial is scheduled for April 30.

Email Tiffany DeMasters at tdemasters@westhawaiitoday.com.

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