Thursday, February 11, 1999

must testify in
Peters’ case

Possible conflicts exist
in her concurrent probes of
Bishop Estate's trustees

By Rick Daysog


Circuit Judge Michael Town has ordered Attorney General Margery Bronster to testify in the criminal case against Bishop Estate trustee Henry Peters.

But Town made no ruling on trustee Richard "Dickie" Wong's request to suspend a grand jury investigation into his alleged role in a Hawaii Kai land deal, paving the way for the secret panel to hear testimony today.

Nathan Aipa, the estate's in-house lawyer, this morning appeared before the grand jury to answer questions about that Kalele Kai condominium transaction.

Wong has denied wrongdoing, saying he had recused himself from negotiations in that deal.

In Peters' criminal trial, Town yesterday ordered Bronster to answer questions from lawyers for Peters and local businessmen Jeffrey Stone and Leighton Mau about possible conflicts in her simultaneous criminal and civil investigation of the Bishop Estate's trustees.

But Bronster -- whose testimony has been tentatively scheduled for Tuesday -- will not have to answer broader questions about her legal strategy or about her authority to prosecute criminal cases, Town said.

"This court is reluctant to bring the attorney general in," Town said. "The conflict is the primary concern the court has."

Deputy Attorney General Larry Goya said the attorney general's office plans to challenge Town's decision, saying it sets a bad precedent.

A spokeswoman for Bronster declined comment on possible challenges. But options include the filing of appeals or writs of mandamus with the state Supreme Court or the federal courts.

Peters, Mau and Stone were indicted by an Oahu grand jury last November for taking part in an alleged kickback scheme involving the sale of the estate's fee interest to the 229-unit Kalele Kai condominium project.

Stone, who is a partner in the group that acquired Kalele Kai, is Wong's brother-in-law.

All three have denied wrongdoing and have asked Town to dismiss the charges.

They argued that the attorney general's office does not have the proper authority to conduct a criminal investigation and that Bronster's dual role as the estate's legal guardian and her duties as prosecutor are in conflict.

Town last month ordered Bronster's testimony, which was subpoenaed by Stone's lawyer John Edmunds. But the judge did so only if retired First Deputy Attorney General John Anderson was unable to answer key questions posed by defense lawyers.

Bronster later filed a writ with the state Supreme Court seeking to bar her testimony. She also filed a motion asking the high court to recuse itself from ruling on the writ since all five justices have taken part in the selection of Bishop Estate trustees.

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