Saturday, June 26, 1999

Stender lawyers
seek $2 million
from estate

By Rick Daysog


Bishop Estate trustee Oswald Stender ran up about $2 million in legal and other fees relating to efforts to remove fellow trustee Lokelani Lindsey.

Attorneys for Stender yesterday filed papers in probate court seeking reimbursement from the estate for their efforts to remove Lindsey from her $1 million-a-year post.

The law firm of Bays Deaver Hiatt Lung & Rose is seeking $1.06 million in attorneys fees while the Watanabe Ing & Kawashima firm is asking for fees of $762,000.

The law firms also are asking for about $84,000 in expenses relating to the five-month trial and the trial's discovery.

The fees must be approved by Probate Judge Kevin Chang, who has scheduled an Aug. 13 hearing.

Attorneys for fellow trustee Gerard Jervis, who joined Stender in suing for Lindsey's removal, have not yet asked the estate for reimbursement. Jervis' fees are expected to reach the six-figure level.

Lindsey's attorneys fees, meanwhile, are expected to be comparable to Stender's legal costs.

Lindsey lawyer Michael Green previously disclosed that Lindsey already has paid about $600,000 to defend herself from the various legal actions against her.

The legal costs not only cover the grueling trial in which Lindsey was removed but also cover an additional year of discovery and other legal actions relating to the estate.

In an affidavit, Stender attorney Douglas Ing said that the two law firms took part in depositions of more than 50 witnesses in which more than 270 exhibits were introduced as evidence in the Lindsey case.

"The Lindsey removal petition was an extraordinary legal proceeding and unprecedented in Hawaii," Ing said. "The case was extremely complex from a factual and legal perspective."

Under Hawaii trust law, attorneys are entitled to reimbursement from the estate for taking actions in the best interests of the estate. In her 190-page findings of fact for the Lindsey removal, Circuit Judge Bambi Weil found that Lindsey committed numerous breaches in her management of the estate.

Wongs will challenge

By Rick Daysog


Lawyers for Bishop Estate trustee Richard "Dickie" Wong and his wife, Mari, will go to federal court in an attempt to halt grand jury proceedings scheduled for Tuesday.

The attorney general's office on Wednesday subpoenaed the Wongs and Mari's brother, local developer Jeffrey Stone, to testify before an Oahu grand jury about an alleged kickback scheme involving Bishop Estate land.

The attorney general's office also subpoenaed estate attorney Nathan Aipa and trust land manager Paul Cathcart.

Jerry Fonseca, Mari Wong's attorney, said he and Eric Seitz, trustee Wong's attorney, plan to file a suit in federal court challenging the grand jury investigation.

The suit will allege that the attorney general's office is misusing its powers in pursuing a criminal investigation which has no merit, and will question the constitutionality of some of the subpoenas that had been issued, Fonseca said.

He noted that Circuit Judge Michael Town earlier this month threw out indictments against the Wongs and Stone, saying the grand jury's decision was tainted by the testimony of Stone's former attorney, Richard Frunzi, who had been convicted on unrelated federal money laundering charges.

Tuesday's session will be before a different grand jury.

"I think we have enough factual proof that they are misusing their powers in this case," Fonseca said.

The attorney general's office subpoenaed the Wongs and the other witnesses to appear before a grand jury to testify about a Hawaii Kai land deal in which Stone and his mainland partners, National Housing Corp., acquired the estate's fee interest to the 219-unit Kalele Kai condominium project.

The attorney general's office has alleged the estate gave Stone and his mainland partners preferential treatment when they acquired the fee interest in 1995 for $21.9 million.

In return, Stone acquired the Wongs' Makiki condominium several months later for $115,000 more than it was worth, the state has said.

Wong, who was temporarily removed as a trustee by Probate Judge Kevin Chang last month, has denied wrongdoing, saying he recused himself from negotiations involving Kalele Kai. Stone has denied that he received favorable treatment, saying the deal benefited the estate tremendously.

Stone's attorney, John Edmunds, has threatened to file a lawsuit against the attorney general's office for wrongful prosecution. Edmunds could not be reached for comment.

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