Leilehua teacher admits selling 'ice'
Lee Anzai faces a minimum of 10 years in prison
A Leilehua High School teacher pleaded guilty yesterday to dealing "ice" and agreed to enter a drug treatment program.
Lee Anzai, 29, appeared in federal court before District Judge J. Michael Seabright and pleaded guilty to a single count of dealing 138.5 grams of ice to an undercover officer on Sept. 19 at Gentry Waipio Shopping Center. As part of his plea agreement, Anzai also admitted to four other counts of dealing ice at separate times and locations.
In October, Anzai was charged with five counts of distributing nearly a pound of ice based on a two-month undercover operation. He is believed to be the first public school teacher to be charged for dealing ice.
"He is willing to accept full responsibility for his participation in this drug distribution. He is quite a changed individual," said attorney Howard Luke, who is representing Anzai.
"He is remarkably rehabilitated already, in my opinion, very remorseful. And he intends to make right and to pay his debt to society, whatever the court may impose," Luke said.
Anzai faces a minimum of 10 years to life in prison and a maximum fine of $4 million for the drug deal charge. His sentencing is scheduled to be held at 1:30 p.m. June 4.
While he awaits sentencing, Anzai must meet several conditions for his release, including completing a residential drug treatment program at Hina Mauka.
Upon release from the program, he is to be under residential custody of his father-in-law, Howard Kawashima, and pay a $15,000 bond. He is also restricted from working in the education system.
Anzai will continue to be held at the federal detention center until bed space is available at Hina Mauka, possibly sometime after Jan. 1, Luke said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Kawahara said Anzai could be eligible for serving less than 10 years in prison under a provision called the "safety valve."
Under that provision, Anzai would need to admit to law enforcement officials and truthfully provide all information concerning the full scope and extent of his criminal conduct sometime before his sentencing, Kawahara said.
Considering the seriousness of Anzai's crimes, a prison term is appropriate, Kawahara said.
"It's not necessarily only because he is a teacher, but just the nature that more than anyone else who would know about the dangers of drug abuse, it's him. Nevertheless, he persisted doing it," he said.
More than a dozen of Anzai's friends and family members, including his wife, Sherri, sat in the courtroom gallery yesterday. Family members declined to comment yesterday.
Anzai is a special-education teacher and remains an employee of the Department of Education. Currently, he is on unauthorized leave without pay, DOE spokesman Greg Knudsen said. He declined comment on Anzai's plea agreement.
Principal Norman Minehira of Leilehua High School could not be reached for comment.
Anzai has no prior criminal record. He had been a teacher at Leilehua High for the past six years before the charges. He and his wife have a son who will turn 1 next month.