Hawaii County prosecutor candidate: Jared “Kamaka” Auna

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Jared Kamaka Auna stands by the water at Leleiwi Park.

Jared “Kamaka” Auna said he wants to become the elected prosecutor of Hawaii County because of “the love I have for my island.”

“I’ve seen the way it can be and the way it is now. There are so many things that we need to better in our public safety plan,” the 38-year old Hilo native said.

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Currently a private defense attorney, Auna has been a deputy prosecutor on Hawaii Island, as well as Maui and Kauai, and claims on his Auna for Prosecutor Facebook page to have “done over 100 trials.”

Auna, a 1999 graduate of Hilo High School, earned a baccalaureate degree at Brigham Young University of Hawaii and a law degree at Barry University School of Law in Florida. He said while at BYU in Laie, Oahu, he managed an on-campus bowling center.

According to Auna, that experience was a great business education and provided him with a philosophy he repeats often: “consistency creates efficiency.” He said he’ll put that philosophy to work on an everyday basis as prosecutor.

In a three-candidate case, Auna lags far behind Deputy Prosecutor Kelden Waltjen in both raising and spending funds. As of June 30, he listed $4,392 in receipts and $4,192 in expenses. Of that, $3,682 — on both sides of the ledger — is his own money. Another $200 is money he loaned his campaign to open a bank account.

If elected, Auna said his No. 1 priority will be “refocus and prioritize” the prosecutor’s office to work with a smaller budget.

“This COVID world has changed everything,” Auna said. “We’re going to have to make economic decisions on how we’re going to spend our money. … We’re going to have less tax revenue, so we’re going to have to prioritize the limited resources that the county has.”

He said one way to streamline the process is to assign a team of deputy prosecutors, investigators and a clerical unit to work in a single courtroom.

“A single attorney has cases in Circuit Court, District Court and Family Court, and that single attorney is supposed to be everywhere, but has to have others help handle the load in multiple courtrooms,” Auna said. “If you can have one attorney handle the case and follow it through, success will be better, because … you’re not going to have lost-in-translation or lost-in-transfer information. It’s called vertical prosecution.”

According to Auna, the prosecutors office also spends funds unnecessarily “sending prosecutors, investigators and counselors all around the country to these long trainings.”

“And what do they do there at these trainings? They watch PowerPoints,” he said. “We just spent $10,000 for someone to go to Las Vegas to watch a PowerPoint presentation? We can watch the PowerPoints at the office.”

Another money-saving measure, Auna said, would be to disconnect the office’s fax machines.

“Email is, by far, more effective,” he said. “You can send out emails to 20 people, it does not require every fax machine to print up. There’s heavy expenses with having a fax machine. You need a phone line, ink, repair — and you have to punch in all these numbers.”

He, like Waltjen, said the office needs to have an appeals division to increase efficiency.

According to Auna, the releases of hundreds of inmates from the state’s jails and prisons to help prevent a potential COVID-19 outbreak behind bars highlighted the need for “a larger, renovated facility for the health of everybody.” He said authorities should also scrutinize who should and shouldn’t be locked up.

“We need to prioritize the most violent; these are the people who need to be there,” he said. “We need to stop penalizing people solely for being homeless. … If you found them in a county park … and you’re throwing them in jail for 30 days because they got 30 days last time, we’re not going to have enough room for people who committed crimes of violence.”

Rehabilitation and reintegration based on Hawaiian cultural models need to be instituted, as well, Auna said.

“There has been a lot of talk in the Hawaiian community about reinstating the pu‘uhonua,” he explained. “Ho‘oponopono was always about making things right, giving a person a chance to ask forgiveness and also to show forgiveness. And be forgiven, to make their family stronger. Because we’re going to be living in the same community.”

Auna said he wants to make prosecution of DUI homicides a priority, saying a friend was killed last year by a driver alleged to have been drinking, but added the “saddest and heaviest issue on my heart is missing children.”

“Although most may have left their homes willingly, most cannot return willingly,” he said.

During Auna’s childhood, a 16-year-old cousin who went to Konawaena High School went missing, and was later found dead.

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“She was categorized as a runaway,” Auna said. “I don’t want to categorize any child as a runaway. I want to categorize every single child that is missing as an emergency.”

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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