Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Judge refuses to reduce
prison time for Kahapea

A judge has shot down convicted city housing official Michael Kahapea's request to reconsider the 50-year sentence for the theft of nearly $5.8 million from the Ewa Villages relocation project.

Former city official Michael Kahapea is serving 50 years for the Ewa Villages scam.

Circuit Judge Reynaldo Graulty, who presided over Kahapea's eight-week trial in the summer of 2000, ruled yesterday that despite the 4 1/2 years that have passed since the trial, he still believes the sentence was appropriate.

"The court's sentence on Oct. 19, 2000, took into account everything he had done -- the fact that he was the mastermind and came up with a universal scheme of theft, bribery and seduction in order to satisfy his personal needs," Graulty said. "There were no mitigating factors in this case."

Kahapea was convicted in August 2000 for masterminding a scheme in which the city paid nearly $5.8 million to bogus moving companies owned by Kahapea's friends and family for work that was never done or was performed at inflated prices. A portion of the money was kicked back to Kahapea, who spent it on gambling trips to Las Vegas or at local hostess bars.

Kahapea had also pleaded guilty to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from city relocation projects at Middle Street and West Loch and to stealing $200,000 from coin-operated laundry machines at two city housing projects.

Kahapea was convicted of 48 counts, and Graulty ordered him to serve consecutive 10-year terms on each of five counts of first-degree theft, with the remaining terms concurrent.

Defense attorney Reginald Minn said Kahapea's sentence should be proportionate to lesser sentences received by defendants in similar cases involving theft of public funds.

Kahapea's sentence is more than twice that of 20-year terms imposed on defendants convicted of violent felonies such as manslaughter and armed robbery, Minn argued.

Deputy Prosecutor Randall Lee opposed a reduction, arguing that in the property crime cases cited by the defense, the defendants all took responsibility, cooperated and expressed remorse. At trial, Kahapea maintained that he did not steal any money and that the money was used to clean up toxic waste buried at the Ewa Villages property.

For Kahapea to now apologize to the court and ask to be treated similarly to other defendants is "too little, too late," Lee said.

Kahapea apologized to the court yesterday for the first time since his conviction and asked for a chance to make amends. He did not testify at trial and had declined to address the court at his sentencing because he was planning on appealing his conviction.

"I'd like to apologize to the community, my family and friends for my part in the Ewa Villages situation," said Kahapea, wearing brown Halawa garb and foot shackles.

"When I reflect on the past eight years, I realized I failed completely in the trust given me by the community, my family and friends."

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