Civil rights activist
pleads no contest
Marsha Joyner's theft nearly
imperiled a condo's occupants
Longtime civil rights activist Marsha Joyner tearfully apologized yesterday for stealing $14,700 from her condominium association, saying there was no excuse for what she did.
Saturday, March 13, 2003
>> Civil rights activist Marsha Joyner, convicted of second-degree theft, is no longer president of the Martin Luther King Coalition-Hawaii as was incorrectly reported yesterday in a Page A7 article.
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Joyner, a former president of the Kon Tiki 'Ano Hou, a 48-unit building in Waikiki, pleaded no contest in September to second-degree theft.
She was accused of signing association checks without the board's approval to a company owned by resident manager Grant Ricky Peters and to a company she owned for work that was not performed. Peters, who was also indicted for second-degree theft, has not been found.
Circuit Judge Richard Perkins, after hearing her apology yesterday, said he believed she is sincerely remorseful, and granted Joyner's request to defer her no-contest plea for five years if she abides by court-imposed conditions. He also ordered her to perform 350 hours of community service.
Joyner, president of the Martin Luther King Coalition-Hawaii and one of four presidential electors chosen by the state Democratic Party in 1996, admitted yesterday she took money that belonged to the association 22 times during a low point in her life. "I'm very ashamed. I am deeply sorry for what I've done," she said.
She was unemployed, facing mounting medical bills after she began losing her sight and was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and had expenses from caring for her ill mother, who later died.
"It was just a crazy time and here was a check, and I accepted money I should never have accepted," she said.
She contends she was betrayed by Peters and that the extent of her involvement in cheating the association was nowhere near his.
Deputy public defender William Jameson said Joyner's admissions in court "caused her a deep sense of shame and public embarrassment."
Letters submitted to the court in support of Joyner describe her as giving selflessly to the community for the past 30 years and as someone who made Hawaii a better place to live but, because of financial troubles, brought humiliation to herself and her family, Jameson said. "This is a good person who did a bad thing."
But current association President Carroll Henry, who purchased a condo at Kon Tiki about five years ago while Joyner was president, said she thwarted all efforts he made to obtain the association's financial records and showed him a side of her not seen by the community.
After some checking, he discovered that the association was so far in debt that "every one of us would have lost everything."
A majority of the condo owners are poor or elderly tenants in their 60s to 80s on limited incomes who would have been out on the streets had she succeeded in her "calculated plan" to cheat them, he said.
The gas and utility bills had not been paid, and notices had been sent saying the electricity was going to be shut off, Carroll said.
Perkins commended Carroll for stepping in when he did. Had he not intervened and Joyner continued doing what she was doing, it would have resulted in serious consequences for the remaining owners and tenants, he said.
"It should never and can never happen again," Perkins told Joyner.