Judge acquits attempted murder charge in connection with 2017 Kualoa ranch ambush.

The charges stem from an attack on Kaneohe employee Lindsey Kinney, and former associate Miske said the alleged mob boss had a death wish.

A federal judge acquitted Michael Miske of two charges, including attempted murder, related to the 2017 attack on Lindsey Kinney, which Kaneohe witnesses said angered the accused racketeer with social media posts.

The government did not present enough evidence at trial to show that Miske tried to kill Kinney himself or assisted others in trying to kill Kinney in 2017, U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson, who is overseeing Miske’s federal racketeering case, ruled Monday.

The judge’s ruling came in response to a defense motion seeking acquittal on 18 counts in the complex case against Miske, which is pending in federal court. Defense attorneys filed the motion last week after prosecutors withdrew their case after more than four months of trial. Watson refused to acquit Miske on the remaining 16 counts.

The defense is expected to argue its case when the trial resumes on Wednesday.

Kinney, who was previously associated with the Nakipi Motorcycle Club, said he was targeted by Miske’s associates after turning down $50,000. He said he was approached to kill Johnathan Fraser, a 21-year-old who was best friends with Miske’s deceased son, Caleb. Witnesses say Miske wanted Fraser dead because he blamed Fraser for the car accident that led to Caleb’s death. Miske’s lawyers deny this.

Lindsey Kinney told Hawaii News Now that in 2016, people associated with Miske offered him $50,000 to kill Johnathan Fraser. Kinney said that after declining the amount of money, he believed he was targeted by Miske. (Hawaii News Now/2020)

Miske’s former associate Jacob Smith also testified that Kinney made social media posts that Miske considered insulting to his reputation and that Miske wanted him dead.

One afternoon in May 2017, Smith and Miske’s half-brother, John Stancil, ambushed and shot Kinney at the Kualoa Ranch, where he worked as a rigging handler. Miske was also at the ranch with them.

But Smith testified that he fired into the air, intentionally missing Kinney, Miske’s attorney, Michael Kennedy, said during a court hearing last week. There is also no evidence that Miske had a firearm on him that night or provided one to Stancil or Smith before the ambush, Kennedy said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Nammar, however, argued that Miske orchestrated the ambush after another former associate, Norman Akau, took Kinney’s gun from him. Before confronting Kinney at the Kualoa ranch, Miske checked to see if Smith and Stancil were armed, Nammar said.

While evidence shows that Akau gave Miske the “green light” to take Kinney’s gun, it does not mean that removing the gun was part of a larger plan to murder Kinney, Watson wrote in his order.

The ambush testimony also does not support a murder conspiracy, Watson wrote. Miske told Smith he wanted to fight Kinney and asked Smith not to let Kinney approach him before checking to see if Smith was armed, the order said.

“There is simply no way that a reasonable assessment of the facts could interpret this statement, together with other evidence in the record, as shedding light on the intent necessary to support a conviction under Count 8,” the order states.

Watson acquitted Miske of count 8 – assault and attempted murder in aid of racketeering – and count 9 – of carrying and using a firearm during and in connection with a crime of violence.

Last week, the government dismissed Count 16 – conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute controlled substances.

Miske still faces 16 charges, including racketeering murder and murder-for-hire conspiracy, in connection with Fraser’s 2016 killing. Both charges carry a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison if convicted.