JANUARY 8, 1932


In September 1931, socialite Thalia Massie alleged that 5 Hawaiian men assaulted and raped her.  Joseph Kahahawai, one of the 5 men, confessed to assaulting another woman. However, all 5 were immediately charged with Massie’s rape.  They all denied involvement.  At trial, a mixed-race jury deadlocked along racial lines.  Released on bail to await retrial, Kahahawai was kidnapped by a group of whites including Massie’s husband, Navy Lieutenant Thomas Massie, and her mother.  The group tried to coerce a confession at gunpoint. Failing that, they shot and killed Kahahawai.  In May of 1932, 4 men, including Lt. Massie, were convicted by a mixed jury of manslaughter and given 10 years at hard labor.  Outraged, the Commandant, 14th Naval District, threatened martial law if the sentences stood.  The Territorial Governor dropped the sentences to 1 hour, served in his office.  All 4 left Hawaii days later.   A later investigation disproved the rape and charges against the other 4 defendants were dropped.

Sources:   “The Massie Trials: A Chronology,” Famous Trials.  Retrieved 2/19/2021, The Massie Trials: A Chronology (umkc.edu)
Photo:  International News Photos, Inc., No. 10879 printed in New York World-Telegram, 1/10/1932. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, NYWT&S Collection, [LC-USZ62-134177].  Likely Public Domain.  If not Public Domain, then Fair Use. Source: Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2004669894/

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