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Editorials
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Thursday, May 30, 2002



[ OUR OPINION ]

Prison is fitting punishment
for corrupt politicians


THE ISSUE

Former Windward Oahu state Sen. Marshall Ige has been sentenced to six months in prison after pleading guilty to theft and tax offenses.


HAWAII Circuit Judge Sandra Simms indicated that the six-month prison sentence she ordered for former state Sen. Marshall Ige for his first felony conviction was influenced by his lack of remorse. The sentence was just, but for a different reason: Prison should be the rule, not the exception, for corrupt public officials, regardless of the absence of criminal history or expressions of remorse.

Corrupt officials generally have difficulty admitting that their motives were impure and that their public service was anything but exemplary. Judges should not be surprised about such self-exaltation. Nor should they hesitate in ordering jail time for violators of the public trust.

Ige agreed to plead guilty to second-degree theft, attempted tax evasion and three misdemeanors of failing to file state tax returns. In return, the state dropped first-degree theft and money-laundering charges.

The theft charge to which Ige pleaded guilty stemmed from his demand three years ago that Vietnamese immigrant farmer Hanh Lam pay him $7,000 in advance sublease payments or lose his Punaluu farm. Lam did not realize that Ige did not own the land or that Ige's primary lease was about to be revoked because of Ige's failure to pay back rent. Lam did know that Ige held power as a state senator.

The dropped theft charge involved Ige, who has described himself as a Windward Oahu taro farmer, not a lawyer, accepting $30,000 from a California couple on the ridiculous promise that he would have their daughter's criminal conviction in Hawaii expunged from court records.

Ige gave the money to a businessman who parceled it back to Ige in small amounts, and Ige did not disclose the income to the state tax collector. When Ige failed to deliver on his bogus promise to obtain expungement of the daughter's conviction, the couple sued him and a California court ordered a refund. Ige eventually was forced to pay the money back.

Ige's actions show a pattern of corruption that the 18-year state legislator refused to recognize except to say, "I regret going down this path. I should have never done it."

Such public corruption is correctly rewarded with prison time. Former Honolulu City Councilman Andy Mirikitani has begun serving a federal prison sentence of more than four years for his conviction of extortion and acceptance of kickbacks. Former state Sen. Milton Holt recently served one year behind bars for mail fraud. Likewise, former City Councilwoman Rene Mansho should receive a federal prison sentence next month for misusing campaign funds and directing her staff to perform campaign activities on city time.


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[IN APPRECIATION]

The grace of a comedian


James Grant Benton ambled through the booths of a craft fair at Kuhio Elementary School, skinny legs angling beneath shorts, a smile under the mustache that had begun sprouting a little gray.

A little boy ran past him, jarring a rickety card table on which a woman had arranged her wares. The table collapsed and the trinkets scattered across the pavement. The boy looked back apprehensively, poised to dash away.

As he bent to help the woman retrieve her goods, Benton called gently to him. "Try come," he said. He put his hand on the boy's shoulder and quietly explained that although the spill was an accident, the boy should help pick up. Together, they gathered everything. When order was restored, the woman handed the boy a small, brocaded coin purse, suggesting he give it to his mother.

"There, see?" Benton said, grinning at the youngster. He then proceeded to call out to shoppers like a carnival barker, touting the woman's merchandise for a few minutes while she beamed.

Benton, the Booga Booga comedian, writer and actor who died Tuesday, was a funny man, but at his pith was a generosity of spirit, devoid of self-absorption, of making like he was somebody -- even though he was.

--Cynthia Oi



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Published by Oahu Publications Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press.

Don Kendall, Publisher

Frank Bridgewater, Editor 529-4791; fbridgewater@starbulletin.com
Michael Rovner,
Assistant Editor 529-4768; mrovner@starbulletin.com
Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor 529-4762; lyoungoda@starbulletin.com

Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor, 529-4790; mpoole@starbulletin.com
John Flanagan, Contributing Editor 294-3533; jflanagan@starbulletin.com

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