Thursday, April 8, 1999

Judge clears
way for Wong’s

The Bishop trustee's lawyer
calls the proposal a desperate,
unethical move by the
attorney general

By Rick Daysog


Circuit Judge Michael Town this morning rejected a request to delay grand jury proceedings against Bishop Estate Chairman Richard "Dickie" Wong, paving the way for the secret panel to indict the trustee as early as this afternoon.

Wong's attorney Eric Seitz told Town that the attorney general's office had informed him last week that it may present the grand jury, which was convened at the request of Attorney General Margery Bronster, with a proposed indictment today charging Wong with criminal wrongdoing.

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Bishop Estate Trustee Richard Wong in court
today with wife Mari.

Seitz, who said the grand jury may also seek a criminal indictment against Wong's wife, Mari, requested a delay of several weeks so that Wong could address a separate civil suit by the attorney general's office seeking to remove him temporarily from his $840,000-a-year post.

Seitz, who may appeal Town's decision in federal court, argued that the attorney general's office is rushing to indict Wong to influence the removal suit, which is in the second week of a five-week trial.

"This is a desperate, highly unethical attorney general who suffers from the illusions of grandeur and exercises no constraint based upon clear ethical, legal and constitutional precepts," Seitz said in court papers filed yesterday.

"The actions of the attorney general's office clearly demonstrate a misuse of her vast powers to effectuate criminal prosecutions which are unjustified and, in turn, to obtain improper advantages in the underlying probate court litigation."

The grand jury subpoenaed Wong; Mari Wong; Wong's mother-in-law, Beverly Bates; and Wong's brother-in-law Jeffrey Stone to testify about an alleged kickback scheme involving Wong, Stone and trustee Henry Peters.

Since last year, the grand jury has been investigating Wong's alleged role in a Hawaii Kai land deal involving a partnership affiliated with Stone.

The state has charged that Wong received a kickback from Stone when Stone acquired his Makiki condominium for an inflated price. In exchange, Stone received a "sweetheart deal" when Stone and his partners acquired the fee interest to the Kalele Kai condominium complex in 1995.

The 65-year-old Wong, a Bishop Estate trustee since 1993, declined comment this morning as he left Town's courtroom to attend a hearing on Bronster's removal suit.

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