Wednesday, September 5, 2001

Gov’s pardon
eases pain of
vote scandal

By Richard Borreca

Part of a nearly 20-year-old scandal has ended with Gov. Ben Cayetano's pardon last month of Ross Segawa.

In 1982, Hawaii's political and legal community was rocked by a voter registration scandal. University of Hawaii law school students had illegally registered voters for Segawa's campaign for a state representative seat -- a scheme that fell apart because student supporters of Segawa were registered at the Arcadia Retirement Residence.

In the end, candidate Segawa was convicted of 10 counts of election fraud, criminal solicitation and evidence tampering. He served 60 days in prison.

Clifford Uwaine, a former state senator, was convicted of conspiring to illegally register voters to help his protege, Segawa. He served three months in jail.

Debra Kawaoka, an aide to Uwaine, served weekends in jail for a year for her part in the voter registration scheme.

Yesterday, Segawa, a fair contracting administrator for the Painters Union, said he hopes to put his mistakes behind him.

"A significant amount of time has gone by, and I have been living the right way," Segawa said. "I thought I could ask the governor for a measure of forgiveness."

While Cayetano made no special mention of the pardon, Segawa said that several times he saw Cayetano and thanked him.

"I thanked him for going with the recommendation of the public safety office and the parole board," Segawa said.

"I made the mistake, and I had to pay the price."

Segawa was a law school student at the time but was forced to leave school. Other students involved in the Segawa campaign -- Neal Aoki, Patrick Pascual and Edsel Yamada -- have all become lawyers.

Kawaoka said that Aoki, Segawa's campaign treasurer, told volunteers that it was permissible and legal to register voters from outside the district if they intended to move into it.

Aoki gave a public statement saying he made an error in judgment by signing up 30 people as 19th House District voters when they didn't live there. He has since become a lawyer in private practice.

Pascual, a Segawa campaign worker who gave some of the first statements to the Honolulu prosecutor in 1982 in return for immunity, is a deputy attorney general.

Edsel Yamada, who was chairman of Segawa's campaign, is also a deputy attorney general.

Uwaine is division director of the United Public Workers union. In 1997, he was found in violation of campaign spending laws and assessed $4,436 by the Campaign Spending Commission, which said that contributions to the Friends for Clifford Uwaine had been used for personal purposes.

Cayetano has already pardoned former Rep. Gene Albano, who was convicted in another voter registration fraud scandal in 1982.

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