HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Why did Maleko Remlinger die?
It's the question a jury will face in the trial of 19-year old Jordan A, Smith, who was charged with killing the 22-year-old in what appeared to be a random shooting just before sunrise Sept.16, in front of the Alley Cat Club in Waikiki.
The killing is a factor in two upcoming trials — one in state court for Smith and a second in federal court for Isaiah McCoy, charged with trying to establish himself as a ringleader of a prostitution gang.
Prosecutors in the two cases have very different theories about why the shooting happened.
Federal authorities say Smith was essentially a soldier in McCoy's gang, while state prosecutors are prepared to argue Smith's motive was personal retaliation.
Witnesses and police say Smith pulled a rifle out of his shirt and fired multiple shots into a crowd gathered outside the club. Remlinger died at the hospital.
Friends and family said Remlinger, who was born in Keaau, was a well-liked, hardworking young man.
Smith, who had come from Delaware just a week before the shooting, was charged with both second-degree murder and first-degree attempted murder, which could lead to prison without the possibility of parole.
Jury selection in the trial started Wednesday.
McCoy, who is facing the federal trial, is a friend of Smith's and told Hawaii News Now that Smith is innocent. He alleges police targeted the 30-year-old because they were looking for any black man who fit the description of the shooter and arrested the wrong one.
"The only thing that matters to them is sending another black man up the river, so to speak," McCoy said, just days after the shooting.
McCoy said he brought Smith from Delaware to help him stay out of trouble.
McCoy himself was well-known in legal circles nationwide because he was released from death row in Delaware after a murder case against him was thrown out by the courts for prosecutorial misconduct.
"He's just a new face, so it's easy for him to be a scapegoat," McCoy said, of Smith. "I will not allow what happened to me, to happen to him."
When asked if Smith was at the scene of the shooting, McCoy would not answer only saying, "Jordan Smith did not commit a murder in Hawaii."
Within days of that interview, McCoy himself was in federal custody, charged with operating a human trafficking ring.
His wife, Army Sgt. Tawana Roberts, was also arrested for helping him operate the prostitution business out of her apartment on Schofield Barracks.