HONOLULU (KHON2) — The federal government has added five new charges of lying to the FBI against former city attorney Donna Leong. Legal experts say the move strengthens the government’s case.
Legal experts said this could also be a signal from the federal government to get the two co-defendants to cooperate with the investigation.
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Leong was indicted earlier this year with conspiracy along with former City Managing Director Roy Amemiya and former Honolulu Police Commission Chairman Max Sword.
Prosecutors say they tried to circumvent the approval needed from the City Council when they arranged to pay Louis Kealoha $250,000 as severance. All three have pleaded not guilty to the charge. The new charges against Leong claim she lied to the FBI on five occasions when she was questioned.
“By having taken these overt acts and now making them individual charges, it makes it more likely that the government might get a conviction against Donna Leong,” said Ali Silvert, a retired federal public defender.
Silvert points out that prosecutors will add charges on as a way to make defendants cooperate.
“It adds more pressure to the person they add charges to, but it also adds more pressure to the co-defendants that they didn’t add charges to, saying play ball or we might do this to you,” he said.
Experts say it’s possible that more charges could be added for all three defendants.
“There probably was a lot of extra work that was done by the federal authorities to be able to determine whether or not they felt comfortable with the charges for the statements being false,” said Doug Chin, former state attorney general.
Attorneys for both sides met with the judge on Friday and said a deposition to question former city Budget and Fiscal Services director Nelson Koyanagi will be done on Monday.
Defense attorneys say he has testimony that can prove that their clients are innocent. He is in poor health and the judge is allowing each attorney to question Koyanagi for 30 minutes.
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We’ve reached out to the attorneys for the defendants and they did not respond.