Wednesday, June 20, 2001

Tape has Mirikitani
telling witness to
lie, lawyers say

The recording is of a conversation
between the councilman and
aide Jonn Serikawa

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

A secret tape recording of a February 2000 conversation at Tantalus Lookout is being used by U.S. attorneys as evidence that City Councilman Andy Mirikitani tried to get a former employee to lie.

An attorney for Mirikitani, however, noted that at no point during the cassette recording was the word "kickback" uttered by either the councilman or Jonn Serikawa, the former aide who wore a tape-recording device during the conversation at the behest of the FBI.

Mirikitani is on trial for giving bonuses to Serikawa and another appointee for a portion in return in the form of an alleged kickback. Specifically, he is charged with bribery, theft, extortion, witness tampering and wire fraud.

The recording was marked by long periods of silence. Serikawa described the silence as moments when Mirikitani would hold up a hand to get him to stop talking and then scribble details to Serikawa on a yellow legal notepad. On many occasions, Serikawa was cut off in midsentence by Mirikitani.

Asked by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Seabright to fill in the silent moments, Serikawa said, "My understanding was that he wanted me to deny everything, deny that he require I kick a portion back to him in cash."

Mirikitani states on the tape that there is no reason Serikawa would be subpoenaed.

"I don't know why they would if you deny it," Mirikitani says on the tape. "Just say it's false."

At another point, Mirikitani says: "It's the best way, Jonn, seriously. 'Cause once you open even one crack ..."

But Mirikitani attorney John Edmunds, in cross-examination, questioned Serikawa on whether the spotty and at times cryptic dialogue was actually about accusations made by Serikawa and co-worker Scott Lasater regarding an equal employment opportunity complaint against Mirikitani, who fired the two men.

Serikawa insisted that at key moments the discussion, both orally and on Mirikitani's notepad, was about the kickbacks, not other issues.

Edmunds, later in the day, attempted to impeach Serikawa's credibility by reminding jurors that he has a felony drug conviction. Edmunds also pointed out discrepancies between Serikawa's grand jury and courtroom testimony on matters such as the precise moment he allegedly gave Mirikitani a portion of the cash. Edmunds also reminded jurors that Serikawa was being granted immunity from prosecution.

Edmunds, at one point, questioned whether Serikawa actually gave Mirikitani cash back.

Serikawa shot back: "That is totally false. I left $1,000 in their apartment."

Several comments in the Tantalus recording played in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor contained obscenities and objectionable references by Mirikitani.

For instance, Mirikitani tells Serikawa of his first reaction to the rumors of an FBI investigation: "I heard that, I go f---, oh no. What kind of s--- is this? What kind of baseless s--- is coming up now?"

In reaction to a comment by Serikawa that Mayor Jeremy Harris got most of the credit for a project at Ala Moana Regional Park, Mirikitani says, "We did get pimped on that Ala Moana thing."

Mirikitani, during another exchange, expresses disenchantment with government life. Mirikitani says, "You know as well as I do, right, public service ..."

Serikawa says, "Thankless f------ job, huh?"

Mirikitani repeats, "Yeah, thankless f------ job."

Mirikitani also tells Serikawa of a Council committee meeting he attended that morning.

"I was in a, in my committee meeting on the Koolau, uh, the eastern side of the island. You know those haoles from Kailua side, they're really activist and loud. So they have this sustainable communities plan that they're working on, so they're against it because Jeremy's (Harris) proposing all this development and s---."

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin