Judge calls mistrial in Otsuka's theft case
The jury declares it is unable to reach a unanimous decision
A state judge has declared a mistrial in the second-degree theft case of Lisa-Katharine Otsuka, accused of stealing $3,035 in fundraiser proceeds from a Tahitian dance troupe.
The Circuit Court jury deliberated for about 14 hours during three days before notifying the court yesterday that they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict.
Prosecutors say this isn't the end of the case and expect to try Otsuka a second time.
"We are going to prosecute Lisa Otsuka because we believe the evidence can be shown that she committed this theft and took money from Manutahi without their consent," said Deputy Prosecutor Paul Mow, one of two who prosecuted the case.
Defense attorney William Harrison said Otsuka is ready to go back to trial. "She wants to have her day in court."
Otsuka, 37, was accused of failing to turn over proceeds from Manutahi's April 1, 2001, fundraiser at the Ocean Club in Restaurant Row. The group was trying to raise money to send their dancers and musicians to compete on Maui in August 2001.
Otsuka testified at trial that she gave the money in cash to Belinda Miranda, a dancer with the troupe and now its vice president, during a drive to a Manutahi board meeting a few weeks after the fundraiser.
Miranda testified that Otsuka offered to convert the cash into a cashier's check and present it to the group at their next practice, but that Otsuka was a no-show. Miranda said she bothered Otsuka so much that Otsuka told her the troupe was never going to get the money and she was keeping it to reimburse herself for raffle prizes.
Harrison said he expects to file a motion to dismiss the case against Otsuka based on the jury's deliberations, which weighed heavily in favor of the defense. Jury members were 10 to 2 in favor of an acquittal, Harrison said. "We don't believe if it's tried again that would change."
A former Maui beauty queen who was stripped of her title, Otsuka drew attention in the fall of 2002 during the city prosecutor's public corruption investigation into then-Mayor Jeremy Harris' campaign.
But two unrelated indictments were subsequently brought against Otsuka, including the Manutahi matter.
"They couldn't get anything else on her and they found these two matters after her name had been in the papers and people came forward because they had an ax to grind with her," Harrison said.
Circuit Judge Dexter Del Rosario set the retrial for the week of Nov. 5.
Otsuka is also awaiting trial on a forgery and theft case in which she is accused of stealing from a former employer.