Rodrigues' attorneys keep up legal fight
Affirmation of former union leader's fraud convictions disappoints attorneys
Legal arguments over the convictions of former United Public Workers union leader Gary Rodrigues and his daughter are far from over.
Rodrigues' attorneys say they will seek further review of yesterday's ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld his 2002 convictions on conspiracy, mail fraud, embezzlement and money laundering charges. The convictions of Rodrigues' daughter, Robin Haunani Sabatini, also were affirmed.
Under the ruling, the case returns to U.S. District Judge David Ezra of Honolulu for resentencing.
Attorneys for Gary Rodrigues say they will seek further review of an appeals court's ruling that upheld the once-powerful union leader's 2002 convictions on conspiracy, mail fraud, embezzlement and money laundering charges.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco also affirmed the conviction of Rodrigues' daughter, Robin Haunani Sabatini.
"I'm extremely disappointed and even more surprised, given the strength of the issues that the defense raised on appeal," said Doron Weinberg, Rodrigues' San Francisco-based attorney. "We expected different results.
"I'm sure that we will ask the court to reconsider."
Both Weinberg and Eric Seitz, Rodrigues' Honolulu attorney, said they would seek to have the case reviewed by a larger panel of 9th Circuit judges.
Rodrigues and his daughter, who have been allowed to remain free on bail pending appeal, will likely remain free during the process.
"I don't see why not," Weinberg said, noting that yesterday's ruling does not become official until it is formally entered with the court, which could take up to 28 days.
The defense is likely to ask for a review before that, meaning the ruling would be stayed until the full circuit decides whether to hear the case.
Weinberg said he had spoken to Rodrigues yesterday but did not elaborate.
Victor Bakke, Sabatini's attorney in Honolulu, said he needed to review the decision yesterday and did not immediately comment.
Federal prosecutors applauded the ruling.
"Obviously we're pleased with the decision," said U.S. Attorney Florence Nakakuni, who prosecuted the case.
Rodrigues had been the head of the 12,000-member union since 1981 and was viewed during his reign as a powerful lobbyist and political kingmaker.
On Nov. 19, 2002, a jury found Rodrigues guilty of negotiating consulting fees for the United Public Workers union's medical and dental contracts and funneling those fees to his daughter without the executive board's knowledge and approval.
He was convicted on 101 counts, which included mail fraud, embezzlement, conspiracy to launder money and money laundering. He was ordered to serve three years of supervised release, pay a $50,000 fine, $378,104 restitution to the UPW, and $10,100 in court costs.
He also was found guilty of accepting $117,000 in kickbacks from an agent of the union's life insurance carrier.
Sabatini was found guilty of 95 counts, including mail fraud, money laundering and scheming to defraud a health care benefit program.
The appeal focused on whether certain standards of proof were met and on legal procedures, including whether the jury received proper instructions.
At trial, the defense did not call any witnesses, arguing instead that the government failed to prove its case against Rodrigues and Sabatini.
"I have no second thoughts," Weinberg said of the strategy. "The government presented a completely artificial theory of guilt and it's one that should not have gone to a jury."
In 2003, Rodrigues, 65, was sentenced to more than five years in prison, while Sabatini, 43, was sentenced to three years, 10 months in prison, with three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $377,000.
Under the appeals court's ruling, the case would go back to U.S. District Judge David Ezra in Honolulu for resentencing.
Because of changes in sentencing laws, Ezra would have to review the sentences he imposed then to determine if he would have done the same thing if the sentencing guidelines were advisory instead of mandatory, as they were at the time.