Nightclub extortion is admitted
A former city liquor inspector admits under a plea deal to conspiracy
A city liquor inspector acknowledged yesterday in U.S. District Court to conspiring with a friend to obtain cash from two nightclubs in exchange for overlooking liquor violations.
James Rodenhurst, a former night-shift supervisor in the enforcement section of the Honolulu Liquor Commission, pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge.
Outside the courtroom, his attorney, Myles Breiner, said Rodenhurst started down the wrong path when he helped out a childhood friend with information, and it ended with Rodenhurst taking gratuities from the friend for failing to enforce liquor laws.
Breiner said that friend, co-defendent Herbert Naone, used his position as head of security at Aloha Stadium and his friendship to extort nightclub owners, with a percentage going to Rodenhurst.
Rodenhurst, 57, admitted to conspiring with Naone to obtain cash from two nightclubs in exchange for overlooking liquor violations. He admitted to allowing Volcanoes Night Club and Sin City (formerly Club Pearlridge) to operate without a liquor license or beyond the restrictions of their license by warning them of upcoming inspections or threatening to shut down or send inspectors to the clubs, according to a plea agreement.
Rodenhurst admitted to accepting six to seven payments totaling $2,000 from Naone beginning before May 2004 through January 2005.
The plea agreement said Rodenhurst admitted giving Naone information about which clubs inspectors were going to visit, and when, and kept inspectors away from Volcanoes and Sin City. Rodenhurst knew that Naone used this information to obtain money from the nightclub operators, and he received some of the money given to Naone, the plea deal said.
Outside the courthouse, Rodenhurst apologized to the commission and to the public for violating his oath as a liquor investigator responsible for upholding the laws of the city and state.
The conspiracy charge carries a maximum term of 20 years in prison. Rodenhurst was scheduled to be sentenced in August.
He said he is ready to accept his punishment.
Breiner said Rodenhurst had taken responsibility from the beginning and had gone to the Liquor Commission on his own and tried to assist with their administrative investigation. He also cooperated with the FBI, Breiner said.
"We're satisfied that the government is satisfied that he's been honest and forthcoming, and look forward to the government recognizing that he has no prior convictions," Breiner said.
Until the allegations, Rodenhurst has led an exemplary life and had an excellent career in law enforcement, Breiner said.
Rodenhurst said he had resigned from the commission after four years, effective yesterday. He had been placed on administrative leave April 17 -- shortly after he and Naone were indicted.
In a statement, Honolulu Liquor Commission Chairman Dennis Enomoto said, "We're glad that this matter has finally been concluded, and we are pleased to see that he has taken responsibility for his actions."
Naone pleaded guilty in September to a conspiracy charge and is scheduled to be sentenced in April. He could not be reached for comment.