Friend of jailed Kaua‘i artist accused of threatening a councilman speaks out following court hearing

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A Kauaʻi resident has voiced support for a local artist in jail on $100,000 bail after allegedly threatening County Councilman Bill DeCosta in January, following a court hearing on Tuesday, April 23.

The hearing was continued to May 7 to allow more time for a mental health and fitness examination from a state psychologist.

Sixty-seven-year-old Glenn Gruenhagen is facing first-degree terroristic threatening charges, a class C felony, and harassment, a petty misdemeanor, after he brought a document, described by police as a “threatening letter,” to the Historic County Building in Lihuʻe on Jan. 12. The letter was left on DeCostaʻs desk and reported to police on Jan. 16. Gruenhagen reportedly returned to the building on Jan. 17 and Jan. 19 before being arrested. He has been jailed at the Kauaʻi Community Correctional Center since Jan. 25.

Lihuʻe man Glenn Gruenhagen was arrested after this document, described as a threatening letter by the Kauaʻi Police Department, was left on council member Bill DeCostaʻs desk on Jan. 12. (Photo obtained from court records)

“My take on it is that the city councilman (DeCosta) did some (messed up stuff). Glenn called him out on it. And now they’re trying to whitewash it. That’s what’s going on,” the resident said.

The resident, who claims to have known Gruenhagen for years, requested to remain anonymous to avoid becoming involved in legal proceedings.


The friend said he did not know about DeCosta’s court declaration that alleged Gruenhagen had left a dogʻs pelt on a table with a note implying “you made me do this” years ago.

“He’s the most non-violent person I’ve probably ever known,” the resident said of Gruenhagen, also describing him as a “legendary” and “brilliant” artist on the island.

In court on Tuesday, Gruenhagen entered from the courthouse’s holding cell, wearing an orange prison jumpsuit. He stood next to his court-appointed attorney, Public Defender John Calma. Gruenhagen was not directly addressed and did not make any statements during the brief 1 to 2-minute discussion on the matter.

Glenn Gruenhagen (Courtesy of the Kauaʻi Police Department)

Fifth Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Watanabe stated that court-ordered psychologist Brenda Bauer-Smith has asked for a two-week postponement of the status review to allow more time for a mental health examination of Gruenhagen. 


Bauer-Smith is the third state psychologist to assess Gruenhagenʻs fitness to proceed, appointed after the court found state psychologists Alex Lichton and Frederic Manke had conflicting opinions on Gruenhagenʻs fitness during a March 19 hearing.

Calma mentioned that Gruenhagen is set to be interviewed by Bauer-Smith this Thursday. “So two weeks will be fine,” he said.

The status review was rescheduled for May 7 at 9 a.m. 

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Kelsi Guerra appeared via Zoom from Honolulu and had no objections to the continuance. Guerra stood in for Lawrence Sousie, the prosecuting attorney assigned to the case. Sousie was not present at the hearing, as he was in court in Honolulu, according to an email response from Honolulu Department of the Prosecuting Attorneyʻs media spokesperson Brooks Baehr. 


The case, initially handled by Kauaʻi prosecutors, was transferred to attorneys from the Honolulu Prosecutorʻs Office last month due to its involvement with a county council member.

DeCosta briefly commented on the case to Kauaʻi Now earlier this month, calling the situation a death threat, but stating he was unable to speak on it further.

Emma Grunwald
Emma Grunwald is a reporter for Kauaʻi Now. You can reach her at
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