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Nakakuni tapped for U.S. attorney


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POSTED: Saturday, July 11, 2009

The federal prosecutor who sent former union leader Gary Rodrigues to prison for mail fraud, money laundering and embezzlement is in line to be the next U.S. attorney in Hawaii.

President Barack Obama announced his intention yesterday to nominate career prosecutor Florence Nakakuni to the job. The nomination will be subject to U.S. Senate confirmation.

“;I'm honored and humbled,”; Nakakuni said.

She said she is also grateful to U.S. Sens. Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka for their confidence in her. Inouye and Akaka recommended Nakakuni for the job.

“;I have no doubt that her vast legal experience will serve us well,”; Inouye said.

Akaka said, “;Nakakuni has proven that she can handle even the most difficult cases competently and with distinction.”;

Nakakuni, 57, has been an assistant U.S. attorney in Hawaii for 24 years, the last four years as chief of the drug and organized-crime section.

Current U.S. Attorney Edward Kubo said he has known Nakakuni since 1975 when they both attended the University of Hawaii.

“;I have always known her to be of high integrity and a great leader. She will do Hawaii proud,”; he said.

Kubo said he hand-picked Nakakuni to be his narcotics and organized-crime chief and that she has been one of his go-to prosecutors.

Nakakuni also received high praise from adversaries and judges.

U.S. District Chief Judge Susan Oki Mollway said she is delighted with Nakakuni's selection. She says Nakakuni has appeared before her numerous times in all manner of proceedings.

“;She's always been professional, knowledgeable and helpful to the court,”; Mollway said.

Nakakuni last appeared before Mollway in the successful prosecution of a former Honolulu police sergeant and his wife for extorting the operators of an illegal gambling and cockfighting operation.

Federal Public Defender Peter Wolff Jr. said he believes Nakakuni's selection “;must be the result of her years of hard work in the U.S. attorney's office,”; for which she should be congratulated.

Defense lawyer Eric Seitz says he supports Nakakuni's nomination whole-heartedly.

“;She's a tough prosecutor, a very effective litigator, and she has integrity and honesty,”; Seitz said.

Nakakuni received Bachelor of Arts and education degrees from the University of Hawaii in 1975 and graduated from UH's William S. Richardson School of Law in 1978.

Following law school, she was a law clerk for Justice Thomas Ogata of the Supreme Court of Hawaii. She spent two years as an attorney-adviser in the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Information and Privacy Appeals.

She also worked as a counsel at the Navy Office of General Counsel in Pearl Harbor before becoming an assistant U.S. attorney.