Defense attorney Thomas Otake used pidgin.

Prosecutor Kevonne Small was all business.

The opening statements in the Aloun Farms human trafficking case Friday were a study in contrasts, local vs. Washington.

But the jury of nine men and three women looked like Hawaii — some part-Hawaiian, part-Asian and part-Filipino. Only one male juror appears Caucasian.

Small is a federal attorney from the criminal civil rights division in Washington, D.C. She came across as all business, even stern. She didn’t smile. She was dressed all in black.

She accused the Sou brothers, Mike and Alec, of a deceptive and greedy scheme.

Otake, a graduate of Iolani and the University of Hawaii Law School, struck a more conversational — and local — tone. (On his website the first thing he says about himself is that he’s “Born and raised in Hawaii.”) He wore a gray suit and a pinkish tie.

One example of his approach: He told jurors a neighbor will testify to seeing the workers “at the beach. He seen them carrying beer. He seen them bringing women over.”

Otake also went into detail about Aloun Farms’ history and how the Sou brothers grew up on the Waianae Coast.

He told jurors how Mike and Alec Sou’s father, Aloun Sou, was a refugee from Laos who brought his family to Hawaii in the 1970s. He explained in detail where the family’s original five-acre farm was located, off of Maili’ili Road in Waianae. And that the Sou brothers went to Waianae High School.

Otake also tried to establish the Sou brothers’ business as a “family-owned, family-run farm — not some big corporation.”

“Aloun Farms — you name it, it’s grown,” Otake says, noting that the farm’s produce is available at Times Supermarkets on Oahu, KTA Superstores on the Big Island and the former Big Save stores on Kauai, which are now Times stores.

Small, the federal government’s attorney, by contrast, stuck to a timeline of events, six different charges against the Sou brothers: forced labor, document servitude, visa fraud, alien harboring, obstruction of justice, conspiracy.

The alleged trafficked victims, she said, were poor when they were recruited, and the Sou brothers made them even poorer so they could have a “cheap, compliant work force in their fields.”

But her first witness, an FBI agent, didn’t even know which town was closest to the farm. She thought it was Waianae. It’s Waipahu or Kapolei.

The agent said she’d only driven past the farm once.

Washington vs. Honolulu.

The trial is scheduled to continue Tuesday.


Keep up with the trial via Civil Beat’s live blog.

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