Thursday, December 6, 2001

Andy Mirikitani and his wife, Sharron, walked through a gantlet of reporters as they left the federal courthouse this morning.

gets jail

A federal judge gives the
ex-councilman a 4-year sentence
for theft and extortion

Four have filed for his old job

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

Saying his behavior showed "a lack of respect for the public," U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor sentenced former city councilman Andy Mirikitani to four years and three months in prison for a kickback and extortion scheme.

"The defendant's criminal behavior fueled the public's mistrust and lack of confidence in government," Gillmor said.

In addition, Mirikitani will be on three years of supervised release after he serves his prison time and must pay $6,884 in restitution. Mirikitani, 46, won't go straight to prison.

Gillmor allowed Mirikitani to surrender himself voluntarily by Jan. 17 to authorities at a federal facility yet to be determined. Gillmor said that she will recommend that Mirikitani be incarcerated at Nellis Camp near Las Vegas as requested by Mirikitani attorney John Edmunds.

The sentence was the lowest prison time allowed under federal sentencing guidelines. The maximum Mirikitani could have received was five years and three months.

Mirikitani is the highest-ranking public official in Hawaii to be convicted of a federal crime.

This morning's sentencing ends what was a promising career that was later marred by odd behavior, a series of clashes with colleagues and, finally, a criminal conviction.

A federal jury found Mirikitani guilty on July 3 of bribery, theft, extortion, wire fraud and two counts of witness tampering. Federal prosecutors said Mirikitani gave $26,533.45 in bonuses from his Council salaries account to staff aides Cindy McMillan and Jonn Serikawa for $6,884 in kickbacks.

Both former employees testified against him in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

During court proceedings this morning, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Seabright argued for a higher sentence, saying what Mirikitani did was "insulting to his constituents, insulting to the community, and insulting to the state as a whole."

He said Mirikitani also demonstrated a "total lack of remorse and acceptance of responsibility" for his actions.

Edmunds argued unsuccessfully that Mirikitani's "extraordinary career" as an elected official should be factored into the sentencing, noting that he introduced more bills during his tenure than any of his colleagues.

During the 10-day trial, Seabright painted Mirikitani as a desperate man in debt for more than $100,000 in the summer of 1999 because of legal fees tied to an unrelated lawsuit involving his family's estate. Both former employees testified that Mirikitani tried to silence them when he knew they would be questioned by authorities, a point Gillmor noted in pronouncing the sentence.

Edmunds said the kickback allegations stemmed from disgruntled employees. Mirikitani testified that there was no connection between the bonuses and the money he received from his two former aides.

But jury forewoman Missy Sato said there was little doubt that Mirikitani lied on the stand. She and several other jurors were at the sentencing.

Sato, a 21-year-old Leeward Community College student, said she believes Gillmor should have given a harsher sentence, adding that she finds white-collar crimes onerous and that Mirikitani as an elected official should be held to a higher standard.

Mirikitani's wife, Sharron, 52, was sentenced to one year and nine months in prison and three years of supervised release for aiding in the kickback scheme.

The two married last Friday, the day before Mirikitani's resignation from the Council, making her eligible for health and other benefits.

Mirikitani, who resigned last Friday, represented the 5th Council district encompassing Manoa, Makiki, McCully-Moiliili and Ala Moana.

He first joined the Council in 1990 and was a champion of the environment, campaign and ethics issues and women's rights.

Mirikitani was also known for battling the adult entertainment establishments in the Kapiolani and Keeaumoku neighborhoods he represented.

Applications welcomed
for Mirikitani’s old job

Candidates have until Dec. 17 to
file their nomination papers

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

Residents of Manoa, Makiki, McCully-Moiliili and Ala Moana have until 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 17 to file nomination papers with the city clerk's office to be a candidate in the special election to replace former City Councilman Andy Mirikitani.

Three former elected officials and a longtime neighborhood board member said yesterday they will vie for the spot.

The election, to be held Jan. 26, would be for the remaining year or so left on Mirikitani's term. The winner would be eligible for two consecutive four-year terms.

The Council voted unanimously yesterday to proceed with the special election.

Mirikitani resigned from his 5th District seat Saturday and was to be sentenced in U.S. District Court today on charges that he received kickbacks for bonuses given to two employees.

Candidates must be registered voters of the district and need to submit a filing fee. While the regular fee is $250, Council Chairman Jon Yoshimura said, most people pay a discounted $25 fee for agreeing to abide by voluntary campaign spending limits.

The four people confirmed to be running are:

>> Former state Sen. Ann Kobayashi, 64, of Manoa, a special assistant to Gov. Ben Cayetano.

Kobayashi was a senator for the Manoa-Makiki area from 1980 to 1994, when she ran unsuccessfully for Honolulu mayor. She later worked for Mayor Jeremy Harris as an executive assistant.

>> Former state Rep. Sam Aiona, 36, a Makiki resident who is a loan officer for a mortgage company.

He served one two-year term in the state House of Representatives but lost to Brian Schatz in 1998 and again last year.

>> Former Councilman Kekoa Kaapu, 64, a Moiliili resident who runs the newsletter Public Interest Advocate.

Kaapu served on the Council representing the Windward side from 1964 to 1969 and the Manoa-Makiki area from 1974 to 1979. He ran third in an attempt to unseat Mirikitani in 1998.

>> John Steelquist, 62, a Tantalus resident, business professor and small-business co-owner.

Steelquist has been chairman of the Makiki/Lower Punchbowl/Tantalus Neighborhood Board since 1985. He ran unsuccessfully for the state House in 1994 and 1996.

There are about 44,600 registered voters in the district, about 36,000 of whom voted in the 2000 election.

The special election will cost taxpayers up to $225,000, City Clerk Genny Wong said.

About 200 poll workers are needed to handle 19 polling places. They will be paid an average of $75 for a day's work. Call 523-4293 for details.

E-mail to City Desk

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