Honolulu District Judge Lono Lee took matters into his own hands literally, locking a rampaging felon in a chokehold after he interrupted a hearing in the 10th floor courtroom, jumped onto the judge’s bench and grabbed the flagpole behind him bearing the Hawaii state flag.
Judge Lee knocked Steven Michael Hauge, 55, down and restrained him with the help of two attorneys until deputy sheriffs arrived and took him into custody. Department of Public Safety spokeswoman told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. The incident occurred around 4:30 p.m. on Monday, March 20.
Deputy Prosecutor Rafael Renteria, who had only been on the job two months, said that Hauge burst into the courtroom while a DUI hearing was being conducted and stated that he had “come for the flag.” After Hauge jumped on the judge’s bench and broke off the flagpole, the judge took him into a chokehold to prevent him from harming others in the courtroom. Renteria said he stepped in to help because he was concerned about the judge’s safety also.
Deputy Prosecutor Kyle Dowd was in the hallway and heard the commotion and ran in to help also. Dowd said the judge had his arm around Hauge’s neck and he was subdued, but his left side was still free, so Dowd grabbed the suspect’s left arm and held it behind his back. There were about nine people in the courtroom at the time and they reportedly hid under the benches until the sheriff’s deputies arrived. After Hauge was removed, Judge Lee continued with court proceedings, according to KHON2.com.
Although it was not clear why Hauge was in the building, he has a criminal record dating to 1977 with more than 50 convictions on charges including, burglary, fraud and assault, according to court records. The agitated man had reportedly been going from courtroom to courtroom in the Honolulu District Court building screaming. "He was quite upset about something," State Sheriff Shawn Tsuha said.
Hauge was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, obstruction of government operations and fourth-degree criminal property damage, and was taken to the Oahu Community Correctional Center, where he is being held on $1,500 bail.
Hauge’s wife, Elizabeth Ann Taylor told reporters at his appearance before District Judge Leslie Hayashi on March 23, that she hopes to post bail for her husband this week. She stated that Hauge had become upset with the judicial system because it wouldn't investigate his father's death several decades ago.
During the Thursday hearing, Hauge repeatedly interrupted the proceedings, saying at one point, "I don't understand what is going on here,” and adding, "I claim the right of free speech. I will not shut up." At one pointed he yelled, "The criminal justice system in Hawaii is unfair," according to the Star Advertiser.com.
Hauge's case was continued until March 29 so that he can be represented by his personal attorney.