Ex-clerk fined $2,000 but denies fixing tickets
A former clerk at Waianae District Court was sentenced yesterday to five years' probation and a $2,000 fine for fixing tickets for two acquaintances in 2002.
A Circuit Court jury convicted Alberta Souza, 61, in July of dismissing a traffic ticket and amending the court's disposition of another case without authorization.
Souza had worked for the state Judiciary for 18 years, 10 of those at Waianae. Yesterday, she maintained her innocence, describing her actions as "unintentional, clerical mistakes."
She said she had no intention of doing anything wrong, never denied making mistakes and is proud of her work record and for being an honest person.
"Your honor, I stand firm of my innocence," she told the court.
Defense attorney Eric Seitz said they disagree with the jury's verdict and intend to appeal. He argued that Souza had nothing to gain from her actions and, therefore, no motive. Souza was highly regarded among co-workers and even some prosecutors who do not believe she was capable of deliberately doing what she was accused of, he said.
Deputy Attorney General Lawrence Goya asked for probation, but with one year in jail and a fine of $1,000 for each count. Souza's statements to the probation officer show she still does not appreciate the seriousness of her actions, which went beyond simple clerical mistakes, he said.
Her actions go to the integrity of the judicial system, which relies on the accuracy of court records in making decisions. "If you can't rely on correctness, you can't rely on anything," Goya said.
Circuit Judge Dexter Del Rosario said the case was troubling because the ticket-fixing convictions come after 18 years of unblemished service during which Souza processed thousands of tickets.
But he found that prison was not appropriate for Souza, in part because she said she and her family have undergone hardship because of her criminal case, and she has been already punished by the stigma.
Souza has since been terminated from her job, a matter they intend to appeal, Seitz said.