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Thursday, January 18, 2001

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
James Kawakami appears in court this morning
and pleads guilty to misusing extradition money.

Retired HPD
detective admits
misusing funds

The 29-year veteran police
officer pleads guilty today to theft

By Debra Barayuga

A retired Honolulu police detective accused of stealing from the state fund to bring criminals back to Hawaii pleaded guilty to one count each of theft and second degree theft this morning.

James Kawakami, 54, also asked that his record be cleared if he stays out of trouble, but the state is expected to oppose a deferral of the guilty plea entered by the 29-year veteran of the Honolulu Police Department.

Deputy attorney general Christopher Young said Kawakami's theft was not a one-time deal, but occurred repeatedly over a period of six years, and that Kawakami also violated his oath to protect and serve the public.

Kawakami is accused of performing numerous extraditions for Hawaii County without the authority and knowledge of the Honolulu Police Department between October 1994 and June 2000, Young said.

Kawakami's two sons, one of them a police officer, and his then-girlfriend, who also worked for the department, accompanied him on the extraditions, Young said.

Kawakami also falsified documents claiming two officers traveled and kept the second airline ticket and per diem for himself, and used airline frequent flyer miles collected to take a couple of mainland trips, Young said.

His actions also posed a risk to public safety -- the state's No. 1 concern with extraditions, Young said.

The state will ask that Kawakami pay $41,004 in restitution -- the amount he took in per diem and airline tickets that he wasn't entitled to when he performed the extraditions. The state is also seeking community service, but no jail time.

Scott Collins, Kawakami's attorney, said his client apologizes for his "severe judgments in error" and is truly sorry. "But for this instance, he's had an outstanding and impeccable career in law enforcement."

Kawakami's first love is the police department and he chose to plead guilty to minimize its exposure to the public, Collins said. At the time, "he didn't appreciate the consequence," Collins said, but now realizes his conduct was inappropriate.

No further charges are expected against his sons, his girlfriend who is now is wife, or any officers who legitimately accompanied him on the extraditions and believed he had authority to travel, Young said.

Judge Richard Perkins will decide on the deferral of Kawakami's guilty plea when he is sentenced March 30.

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