Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Recusal denied in
campaign gifts trial

Defendant Edward Chun says
the judge is biased against him

A state judge will not step down from the criminal trial of prominent local attorney Edward Chun, saying there is no evidence that he has a personal bias against the lawyer.

After an hour-long speech, Circuit Judge Steven Alm denied a disqualification motion by Chun, indicted by an Oahu grand jury in May for allegedly funneling illegal campaign donations to Mayor Jeremy Harris.

"In this case, no bias, let alone a personal bias, has been shown," Alm said. "There is no showing of an appearance of impropriety. The court did nothing to call into question its impartiality."

Chun and his attorney Dale Lee declined comment on Alm's ruling.

Lee previously alleged in a court memorandum that Alm prejudged his client's guilt by threatening to give him jail time for the misdemeanor campaign-spending violations.

Lee also alleged that Alm stated during a July 10 closed-door conference that Chun knew he was doing something illegal.

Alm said his comments were made after Lee and the prosecutor's office approached him about a possible change of plea by Chun, who previously pleaded not guilty.

Alm, who said he does not know Chun, said such pre-plea discussions deal with hypothetical situations in which the parties assume that the defendant is guilty for the purposes of getting the court's inclination on sentencing.

Chun, 71, is a partner in the local law firm of Chun Kerr Dodd Beaman & Wong and is a longtime corporate counsel for local grocery chain Food Pantry Ltd.

The grand jury indicted Chun on misdemeanor charges of using false names on political donations and exceeding the state's $4,000 campaign contribution limit for mayoral races.

According to the indictment, Chun allegedly advised three employees of Food Pantry to donate $9,000 to Harris' 1996 and 2000 mayoral campaigns. The indictment also alleged that Food Pantry reimbursed the employees for the contributions.

Although Food Pantry provided the money for the contributions, prosecutors said, the company's board had no knowledge of the contributions and did not approve the reimbursements.

Chun's trial was scheduled to begin yesterday but was put off until today.


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