HONOLULU (KHON2) — A judge’s ruling to dismiss a case filed by Keith Kaneshiro’s office could ultimately be a key piece of evidence in the conspiracy case against the former city prosecutor. Legal experts said the ruling was a red flag that federal prosecutors could not ignore.

Kaneshiro pleaded not guilty to conspiracy and bribery charges, along with four co-defendants from Mitsunaga and Associates engineering firm. That includes the president of the company Dennis Mitsunaga. Court records say Kaneshiro tried to prosecute a former employee of the firm after receiving $45,000 in contributions to Kaneshiro’s re-election campaign.

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Judge Karen Nakasone dismissed the case against the former employee citing the one sided nature of the investigation.

“To dismiss a case as it’s coming out of the starting block, that’s a clear signal that the judge thinks there’s something wrong,” said Doug Chin, a former Honolulu deputy prosecutor.

Chin points out that police officers normally investigate the case and then present the evidence to the prosecutor’s office.

“In all my years as a prosecutor, that’s 15 years, I have never seen a case that was just independently brought for criminal charges that didn’t really involve the police. And that’s exactly what happened here,” said Chin.

He said conspiracy cases are usually more difficult to prove. But if there’s a witness who can actually spell out that the co-defendants had plotted to put money into Kaneshiro’s campaign fund in exchange for Kaneshiro prosecuting the former worker, that is considered as a strong direct evidence.

“You have some witness that comes forward and says, ‘I was there when I heard the conversations that occurred between Mr. Mitsunaga and Mr. Kaneshiro, and I heard them talk about it,'” he said.

The case now has officials looking into whether the defendants also violated state laws related to campaign spending. The indictment also says one of the defendants donated money under a relative’s name.

“It is a class C felony,” said Kristin Izumi-Nitao, executive director of the Campaign Spending Commission. “It’s probably one of the more outrageous campaign finance violations on our books. But to my knowledge nobody has been prosecuted for that, despite a few referrals.”

She said it may be time to enforce this law to send a strong message.

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Trial has been scheduled for August.