9 accused of illegal
gifts plead not guilty
Nine political donors linked to the engineering firm of R.M. Towill Corp. pleaded not guilty yesterday to charges that they made illegal political contributions to Mayor Jeremy Harris.
Circuit Judge Dan Kochi ordered the donors to stand trial Feb. 2 before Circuit Judge Steven Alm. Kochi also rejected a defense request to continue yesterday's arraignment and plea for one month.
Defense attorneys asked for the continuance after the Towill executives filed a writ of mandamus with the state Supreme Court on Thursday asking that their cases be sent to state District Court for trial.
On Dec. 8, Kochi ordered the Towill cases to be heard in Circuit Court. In denying the defense's request, Kochi said that the filing of a writ does not place a stay on the case.
Yesterday's proceedings come about a month after an Oahu grand jury indicted Towill executives Roy Tsutsui, Nancy Matsuno and Kenneth Sakai and former Towill comptroller Robert Ko, building materials supplier Daniel Rosario and Towill subcontractor John Adversalo on charges that they made contributions in excess of the state's $4,000 limit and gave money under false names.
The grand jury also indicted Towill business associate Donn Mende, his mother, Masae Mende, and his brother Jay Mende. Jay Mende is the Hawaii County deputy clerk in charge of running elections.
The donors are among dozens of people linked to the Towill firm who contributed more than $300,000 in political donations to the Harris campaign since 1996. The Towill firm, one of the state's largest engineering firms, received more than $30 million in nonbid city work in the same period.