Two men charged in ‘murder for hire’ acid attack plead not guilty

Two men pleaded not guilty Monday to multiple charges in a March 12 superseding indictment, including conspiracy to commit first-degree attempted murder, in a “murder for hire” plot to randomly attack a woman with acid in January outside a fitness center near Ala Moana Center.

Paul M. Cameron, 21, allegedly conceived the Jan. 23 acid attack by hiring Sebastian Mahkwan, 30, in an attempt to cast doubt on himself as the attempted murder suspect in a 2023 chemical attack on another woman in Mililani outside the 24 Hour Fitness.


The two are charged with conspiracy to commit attempted first-degree murder and /or attempted second-­degree murder and/or first-degree assault.

Cameron is also charged with attempted first-degree murder, accomplice to second-­degree attempted murder and accomplice to first-degree assault.

Mahkwan was also charged with attempted first-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder and first-degree assault.

The Prosecutor’s Office referred to the scheme as a “murder for hire” plot.

At Monday’s arraignment, Cameron appeared by video teleconferencing with a deputy public defender from the Oahu Community Correctional Center, while Mahkwan, wearing a blue paper jumpsuit, appeared in court with court-appointed attorney Keith Shigetomi.

Judge Ronald Johnson maintained the two be held without bail, saying they were flight risks and a danger to the community.

Johnson initially set two separate trial dates before Judge Fa’auuga To’oto’o for the defendants, although neither party had asked for a separate trial.

The online court minutes later showed that both are set for May 20.

Shigetomi said after the arraignment, “I’m sure I’ll file a motion to sever at some point.”

If granted by the trial judge, the two men would be tried separately.

Mahkwan had been initially indicted Jan. 30 in the Jan. 23 attack outside Planet Fitness, which left Danying Zhang, a Chinese-­language teacher, critically injured and permanently disfigured.

According to Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii President Mike Young, she remains hospitalized and has a long road to recovery ahead.

The indictment says Zhang suffered substantial risk of death, with oral injury and a compromised airway, and she continues to suffer permanent disfigurement from burns to large areas of her face and body, and loss and impairment due to skin grafts.

The indictment says Cameron allegedly hired Mahkwan on or about Nov. 1 to Jan. 23, and made a number of calls from OCCC using Mahkwan’s and his personal identification numbers.

In the 2023 attack against Davina Licon, who also suffered serious injury and permanent disfigurement, outside a fitness center, Cameron allegedly pointed a gun and tried to shoot her, but the gun didn’t go off, she said. He then threw an unknown liquid on her that caused burns to her face and body.

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