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Wednesday, February 23, 2000

Attempted theft charge in
Perfect Title foreclosure
case upheld

By Debra Barayuga


A Circuit Court judge has rejected a bid by a couple to have an attempted theft charge dropped in a case resulting from action by Perfect Title Co.

Carol and Michael Simafranca were convicted of attempted theft for trying to reclaim an Aiea home they had foreclosed. Circuit Judge Sandra Simms denied their motion yesterday after the state argued that they failed to notify the court within 10 days after the jury rendered its verdict.

A jury found the Simafrancas and David Keanu Sai, co-founder of Perfect Title, guilty of first-degree attempted theft in December.

The jury also convicted the Simafrancas of first-degree burglary for breaking into the home in early 1997 while the owners were away.

The Simafrancas and Sai face up to 10 years imprisonment on the attempted theft charge when sentenced March 3. The Simafrancas also face another 10 years for the burglary charge.

The couple had lost their home to foreclosure in 1996 but Sai, as regent of the Hawaiian kingdom, had issued the couple a warranty deed based on research that invalidated existing land titles in Hawaii.

Thomas Leong, attorney for Michael Simafranca, had argued that there was no property taken so dismissal of the attempted theft charge was appropriate.

Deputy Attorney General Dwight Nadamoto argued that the Simafrancas had 10 days after the jury reached a verdict to move for an acquittal or seek an extension. They did neither.

Another co-defendant, Donald Lewis, president and co-founder of Perfect Title, was earlier acquitted of a first-degree attempted theft charge.

The court is also expected to issue a ruling at a later date on the the defendant's motion for a new trial.

Carol Simafranca's attorney, deputy public defender Al Nishimura, had argued that she had been denied a fair trial because of printed materials in the jury pool lounge that may have tainted potential jurors' perception of the judicial process.

The materials alluded to the O.J. Simpson trial and drunken driving cases and had been posted for driver's education classes held in the same room.

If the defendants had filed their motion in a timely manner, extensive questioning of prospective jurors to determine whether they were affected by the posted materials could have occurred, Nadamoto said.

Yesterday was the first time the court has been notified that anything in the jury pool lounge may have had anything to do with the defendants in the Perfect Title case, he added.

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