Honolulu Lite

by Charles Memminger

Wednesday, March 3, 1999

System has turned
upside down

LET'S see. In one corner of our judicial system you have a hula teacher who sexually molests boys. In the other judicial corner you have a singer/songwriter who has a drug problem. In another corner (There are lots of nooks and crannies in the judicial system. Or is it crooks and nannies?) you have a comedian who's running a sports gambling business.

And just for fun, let's throw in a guy who takes part in a vicious beating and robbery of an unarmed tourist and a guy who provides fully dressed adult women to dance for money on the laps of fully dressed adult men.

Now, let's line up these not-so-outstanding people according to which of them is the biggest threat to society. That is, which ones would we like to see taken off the street the longest for the safety of innocent citizens. Here's the way I would list them, from the most dangerous to the least dangerous:

1. Sexual molester of children.
2. Violent offender who preys on tourists/residents.
3. Comedian who runs a large gambling operation.
4. Man who procures dirty dancers for money.
5. Entertainer addicted to drugs.

Under my system, anyone who sexually molests children would be locked up for an extremely long time, because he is a bottom feeder, preying on the most helpless and vulnerable.

People convicted of taking part in violent robberies would also face hefty prison terms, because they also are predators. They take advantage of a civil society in which everyone agrees to go around unarmed. They exploit the weaknesses in this system by arming themselves or setting upon individual victims with greater numbers.

While I have no moral aversion to gambling, I do recognize that large-scale illegal gambling operations can be tied to organized crime and that organized crime is an insidious presence in society. So anyone busted for illegal gambling in a big way should spend some time in the clink.

Someone who provides adult dancers to other adults for money should probably face only slight jail time and a fine if he's caught violating a vague and seldom enforced statute.

Finally, people addicted to drugs need treatment, not up to a decade of incarceration.

Without patting myself on the back (a physical impossibility, trust me) I suspect that the preceding analysis would find broad support from most people. We might argue on the exact length of prison time meted out or how big a fine should be, but I would bet (in a venue where such betting was legal) that most people would agree that child sex abusers are more dangerous than sports gamblers and that drug addicts are less of a threat than violent robbers.

So someone please explain why, in real life, right here in these little islands, the order of punishment was exactly upside down?

Here's what happened:

1. Mackey Feary, isle musician and entertainer: 10 years in prison for drug addiction. Kills himself in prison.
2. Carl Richie, provider of lap dancers: 10 years in prison. (Released after two years because of public outcry.)
3. Mel Cabang, famous island comedian: four years in prison for running a local sports betting operation. (For irony, he's serving his prison time near Las Vegas.)
4. Rodney Balbirona, who took part in a robbery that left a tourist badly beaten: probation.
5. Howell "Chinky" Mahoe Jr., noted hula teacher who admitted sexually molesting four boys: probation. (And he gets to keep teaching children hula.)

If anyone understands why this happens, please explain it to me.

Charles Memminger, winner of
National Society of Newspaper Columnists
awards in 1994 and 1992, writes "Honolulu Lite"
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Write to him at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin,
P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, 96802

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