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Tuesday, December 7, 1999




Ex-Sen. Holt
gets one year in
mail fraud case

The once-prominent lawmaker
used campaign money
for personal use

By Debra Barayuga
Star-Bulletin

Tapa

A federal judge has advised former state Sen. Milton Holt to get help, saying an addiction to drugs led to the politician's downfall.

"Your drug addiction cost you your freedom, your wife and a promising career in government," U.S. District Judge Alan Kay said yesterday. "The only way to turn your life around is participate in drug treatment."

Minutes earlier, Kay had sentenced Holt -- once one of Hawaii's most promising politicians -- to 12 months in federal prison for one count of mail fraud involving the use of campaign contributions for personal purposes.

With credit for time already served, Holt, 46, could be released in eight months. He also was required to pay $2,051 in restitution to the state Campaign Spending Commission, and to be on supervised release for three years after serving his prison term.

Holt admitted to writing a $2,051 check to an executive at Ryan's Graphics, a Honolulu printing company, and receiving cash back in return. Holt's campaign committee received no services for the cash payment, but got a backdated invoice saying the money was spent on "Thank You" cards.

In exchange for Holt's guilty plea, the federal government dropped five other counts of mail fraud.

His voice choked with emotion, Holt thanked his supporters and apologized for his use of drugs and for the "irresponsible actions" that brought him to court.

He said he will rely on a higher power to help him "resume a clean and sober life" and to care for his family. Holt has custody of his three boys, ages 11 to 14.

He will remain at Oahu Community Correctional Center until the U.S. Bureau of Prisons decides where he will serve his term.

Holt has spent most of the last four months in a detention facility in Oakland, Calif., after his bail was revoked for testing positive for crystal methamphetamine.

Holt's attorney, Reginald Minn, declined comment after the sentencing.

Minn had asked that Holt be sentenced at the lower end of federal sentencing guidelines and spend half his term in home detention.

The attorney cited Holt's past public service and outstanding achievements in several areas, and said he has the support of his family.

But Holt suffered a breakdown in his marriage and the loss of a close family member, causing him to "drift" from that source of support and strength, Minn said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Seabright said Holt, although knowing it was illegal, engaged in a long-standing practice of giving checks to friends and having them give cash back and bogus invoices in return, Seabright said. He also provided false information to the Campaign Spending Commission regarding the nature of the expenditures.

"Mr. Holt knew very well the nature of campaign spending laws, what do do and did it anyway," Seabright said.

Prosecutors say Holt used campaign money to pay for a relative's birthday party, drinks at a relative's wedding reception and auto insurance for a car not used by his campaign committee.

U.S. Attorney Steve Alm said Kay did what was appropriate for someone who betrayed the trust of his constituents and the public. "It's so important in white-collar and public corruption cases that there is a real punishment."

Robert Watada, current executive director of the Campaign Spending Commission, said he is satisfied with Holt's sentence and believes it will serve as a deterrent to other elected officials.

But Watada said he wants to see state laws strengthened to ensure candidates comply with campaign spending laws and be punished more severely if they don't.



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