HONOLULU (KHON2) — Keith Kaneshiro, former prosecuting attorney for the City and County of Honolulu, pleaded not guilty after turning himself in to the FBI on Friday morning. Kaneshiro’s co-defendants also pled not guilty and all five were released after posting $50,000 bond.
Kaneshiro was indicted on Friday along with co-defendants Dennis Mitsunaga, the former president and chief executive officer of Mitsunaga & Associates, Inc. and Terri Ann Otani, a relative of Mitsunaga and corporate secretary and office manager of MAI. Also indicted were MAI’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Aaron Fujii and former MAI employee Chad McDonald.
A fifth co-conspirator, known as CC-1, was a former attorney licensed in Hawaii and California and was MAI’s legal representative in administrative, civil and criminal matters. CC-1 was not indicted.
Kaneshiro, Mitsunaga, Otani, Fujii, and McDonald were indicted for conspiracy that involves honest services wire fraud, federal program bribery, manner and means of the conspiracy, overt acts among others and conspiracy against rights.
Court documents said L.J.M. was hired as a project architect at MAI in or about 1996.
In November of 2011, L.J.M. sent a letter to Mitsunaga voicing her disagreement with claims that he made about her.
That same day, Mitsunaga fired L.J.M. without an explanation. MAI, through CC-1, Otani, Fujii and others contested L.J.M.’s request for unemployment benefits from the state, according to court documents.
L.J.M. appealed her request for benefits to Hawaii Circuit Court and around Sept. 6, 2012, the Circuit Court affirmed the finding that L.J.M. was eligible for unemployment benefits.
Fujii filed a report with the Honolulu Police Department alleging that L.J.M. and a local Honolulu attorney, S.M. who had filed a lawsuit against MAI earlier in 2012 — had committed theft against MAI.
Court documents said the assigned HPD officer was largely unsuccessful in obtaining follow-up information from Fujii and others at MAI about the alleged theft.
After being treated unfairly, L.J.M. filed a lawsuit against MAI in the District Court on Aug. 20, 2012 alleging age discrimination and other claims.
Mitsunaga and CC-1 met with Kaneshiro and Kaneshiro’s executive assistant on Oct. 4, 2012, to attempt to persuade Kaneshiro to investigate and prosecute L.J.M. stating that she committed theft by billing time to MAI while working unauthorized side jobs and using MAI resources which consisted of email and phone to work unauthorized side jobs.
After the Oct. 4 meeting with Kaneshiro, Mitsunaga and other co-conspirators and affiliates began contributing money towards Kaneshiro’s re-election campaigns for Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney.
From October 2012 to October 2016, MAI employees along with Kaneshiro, Mitsunaga, Otani, Fujii, McDonald and CC-1 donated over $45,000 to Kaneshiro’s re-election campaigns.
According to court documents, a senior-ranking deputy prosecuting attorney declined filing charges against L.J.M.
The jury’s verdict found there was no liability on any claim or counterclaim with the exception of MAI’s claim against L.J.M. for breach of loyalty. The court awarded $1.00 to MAI in nominal damages.
Kaneshiro then reassigned the case to a recently hired prosecutor, who filed a felony information against L.J.M., alleging four counts of second-degree theft.
Judge Karen T. Nakasone entered a written order dismissing the felony information against L.J.M. with prejudice, due to a lack of probable cause for the charges against L.J.M., and significant irregularities in the DPA’s investigation and prosecution of L.J.M.
The written order said these findings included the “‘one-sided nature of the investigation,” and that the DPA “was little more than acting as the recipient of, and conduit for, MAI’s submissions.'”
Further prosecution of L.J.M. was not attempted by the DPA after Oct. 15, 2017.
Kaneshiro was first elected as a public official in 2010. And was re-elected in 2012 and 2016 for four-year terms.