The preliminary hearing continued this week in San Diego Superior Court. There was little testimony in the first few days of the hearing that dealt directly with the May 24, 2007, attack on Kauanui, 24, that resulted in his death four days later in a hospital from a skull fracture and brain injuries.
A five-day estimate was given to Judge John Einhorn, but attorneys have said the hearing will last longer and might take two weeks to finish. Testimony about previous incidents, all of which involved alcohol and party crashing, was presented first.
Almost all the witnesses and police officers who testified were asked about previous incidents involving the Bird Rock Bandits. None of the officers had ever heard the name before, they said. Defense attorneys asked most witnesses if they ever saw gang signs displayed or graffiti attributed to the Bird Rock Bandits, and no one said they had seen such a thing.
The five men are charged with allegations they were part of a criminal street gang and could receive increased sentences on some charges if convicted. The hearing began May 7 with victims and witnesses of previous incidents in which defendant Seth Cravens, 22, was described as crashing a party and hitting someone.
Two sailors testified about a July 8, 2005, incident at a La Jolla home in which Cravens is accused of making a criminal threat and trying to dissuade a witness from testifying. Someone was punched to unconsciousness, and one man named Cravens and Orlando Osuna, 23, as being present at the scene.
Two police officers testified about writing reports about separate uncharged incidents in 2004 in which one defendant crashed two parties in La Jolla and struck two people to unconsciousness. At the end of the hearing, the prosecutor is expected to add charges involving other incidents. One officer quoted a witness as saying she recognized some of the party crashers as people she knew who attended La Jolla High School.
Another officer testified about an August 2006 incident at Windansea beach in which 10 men surrounded a man and woman and broke a beer bottle on the man's shoulder. The officer testified the victims had beer and sand poured on them. The officer said one witness identified Cravens and Osuna as participating in the attack.
Detective Sandi Oplinger testified she interviewed a woman in October 2006 who identified Cravens as the man who punched her in the face at a party. Cravens is charged with felony assault in that incident.
Officer Robert Herzig testified he arrived at the aftermath of a party that was crashed by most of the defendants on Jan. 1, 2007, at 1:30 a.m. in La Jolla. Herzig testified one victim was intoxicated and bleeding from being punched by a man who struck him without saying anything.
Herzig described the scene as "chaotic." Cravens, Osuna, Henri Hendricks, 22, and Matthew Yanke, 21, are all charged with two felony assaults and one misdemeanor battery in that incident.
The remaining co-defendant, Eric House, 21, is charged with Cravens and Osuna with felony assault of a man on Oct. 14, 2005.
Testimony is expected about the fight between House and Kauanui at a La Jolla bar that ended in his death. Kauanui reportedly poured beer over House, and Kauanui was ordered to leave the bar by security. He was driven home but received a phone call from Cravens.
Kauanui went outside and fought with House again, leaving House to scan the area for a tooth that was knocked out. But Cravens is believed to have punched Kauanui so hard that his head struck the pavement. Prosecutors have said the four others kicked and beat him.
Defense attorneys say the brain injuries occurred from the fall and dispute that any of the others struck Kauanui that night. Attorney Mary Ellen Attridge, who represents Cravens, told the judge at the start of the hearing she believed that he should only be ordered to stand trial for voluntary manslaughter.
All five defendants have pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges. Cravens is the only one who has not posted bond, and he remains in the George F. Bailey Detention Facility on $1.5 million bail. The others are free on high bond amounts. n