Aki urges Senate
to make fair probe

‘They ought to look into
why my case was prosecuted,’
the veteran legislator says

By Mike Yuen

Veteran state Sen. James Aki says he welcomes the appointment of a Senate fact-finding panel that could determine his fitness to remain in the Legislature.

But Aki conceded he has nothing new to tell the panel, made up of the seven members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, that did not come out in his recent court case.

Last month, state Circuit Judge Wilfred Watanabe granted Aki a deferred acceptance of his no-contest plea to felony gambling charges. Watanabe also ordered the Waianae Democrat to pay $1,000 into the state's general fund.

City prosecutors wanted Aki to serve at least 30 days in jail, pay a $10,000 fine and perform 200 hours of community service for permitting a bingo gambling operation on his family's Nanakuli property that grossed $60,000 a week.

Aki contends that when he rented his family's land to a church group, he thought it was for "social gambling."

The deferred acceptance of the no-contest plea means Aki's record will not reflect the gambling charges if he stays out of trouble for the next five years.

Aki, up for re-election next year, yesterday reiterated that he wants to remain in the Senate if his peers allow him to do so. "I just want a fair and full investigation," he said.

"If there's a full and fair investigation, they ought to look into why my case was prosecuted," added Aki, a former Senate president who now is co-chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

Asked if he's saying that he was tried for political reasons, Aki replied: "I don't know. That's what I want to find out.

"But I shouldn't have been brought to trial," he said. "How can (prosecutors) justify that I was involved? All I did was rent space to a church group."

Aki said his only complaint is that he is learning from the news media -- and not from the Senate leadership -- how his situation is being handled.

Mizuguchi (D, Aiea) said the Senate Judiciary Committee will gather facts and report to him by Jan. 12, nine days before the start of the 1998 legislative session.

During the panel's fact finding, Aki will have the opportunity to present his side.

"After I review the committee's report, I will decide what course to follow under Senate rules," Mizuguchi said in a written statement.

Mizuguchi's administrative assistant, Bob Takushi, said the selection of the Senate committee as a fact-finding panel is not a deviation from Senate Rule 72, which establishes the peer review process for charges of misconduct.

It will be part of the first step, an administrative proceeding headed by Mizuguchi, Takushi explained.

Under Senate Rule 72, if the Aki matter can't be resolved administratively, Mizuguchi can appoint a special committee headed by Senate Vice President Andrew Levin (D, Volcano), which could recommend censure, suspension, expulsion or no action.

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