KANEOHE, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The 28 people arrested for blocking the road at the city’s controversial redevelopment project at a Waimanalo park got a big victory Wednesday: A Kaneohe District Court judge dismissed the final petty misdemeanor cases for all those arrested.
That means the cases against all 28 arrestees have been dropped.
After the decision, the courtroom erupted with clapping and then the arrestees hugged and kissed their attorney.
“I’m happy that it was dismissed because it means we stood down, we sat down for a reason,” said activist Kapua Medeiros.
The misdemeanor charges carried a a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail. With the charges dropped, the defendants say a burden has been lifted.
"I feel like it was worth it because it was a small price to pay," said Medeiros.
“Oh, it’s just such a good feeling,” said Jet Bowman, whose case was dismissed in an earlier hearing.
In September, police arrested 28 protesters for obstructing a highway or public passage as the city brought in an excavator for its Waimanalo Bay Beach Park or Sherwoods redevelopment project that includes a sports field and playground.
Two weeks after the arrests, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled in a similar case on Maui that an obstruction case failed to define the charges.
And prosecutors agreed the Sherwoods cases had the same flaw.
“The state would concede that our complaints do not have that definition as that case did come out after the charges were filed in in these cases,” said deputy Prosecutor Dwane Tegman.
"The terms obstruct, highway, passageway, they weren't defined in this particular charging document," said attorney Aaron Wills, who represented 21 arrestees.
"They don't feel that they did anything wrong. That's the reason they pleaded not guilty in first place," he added.
The cases were dismissed without prejudice, which means prosecutors can refile the charges.
Hawaii New Now asked the city for an update on the status of the controversial project and a spokesperson said the city is not commenting for now.
In the last update in mid-December, the city said final decisions on the project will not be made until there’s general agreement. That came after a Save our Sherwoods’ leader told the community the mayor told him that he would nullify the plans.