HONOLULU (KHON2) — The corruption case against three former high ranking city officials takes an unusual turn with one of the defense attorneys asking a judge to question a witness before the trial. The attorney for Donna Leong says the testimony can show that Leong didn’t do anything illegal.
According to court records, Leong’s attorney, Lynn Panagakos, says the witness has some medical issues. So it’s better to get his testimony even before the trial starts.
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Former corporation counsel Donna Leong, former city managing director Roy Amemiya, and former Honolulu Police Commission Chairman Max Sword were indicted earlier this month on charges of conspiracy to defraud the government. Prosecutors say they tried to circumvent City Council approval of the $250,000 severance payout to former police chief Louis Kealoha.
Lynn Panagakos has filed a motion to depose former city budget director Nelson Koyanagi before the trial saying, “If deposed, Mr. Koyanagi is expected to testify that severance payments are paid through salaries and payroll, and do not require City Council approval.”
She adds that “Medical reasons are likely to render Mr. Koyanagi unavailable to testify at trial, and time is of the essence.”
Legal experts say deposing a witness is fairly common in civil trials but not in criminal cases.
“In criminal cases however, we don’t have the right to depose a witness,” said Megan Kau, a defense attorney who is not involved in the case. “We basically know what the witness is going to say based on the police reports or FBI reports or HPD reports.”
It also happened in the Kealoha corruption case. Florence Puana, Katherine Kealoha’s grandmother, was allowed to submit video testimony because of her age and health.
Panagakos also states that recorded conversations between the defendants and Koyanagi presented in the indictment are being misinterpreted by prosecutors.
Her motion says, “The words in the recording do not match the words in the indictment… He (Koyanagi) would flatly contradict the Government’s spin on the recording.”
“So the parties should be able to go to the witness to directly confront the witness to determine what the witness actually said,” said Kau.
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A judge is expected to rule on the motion on Friday.