Thursday, June 14, 2001

Circuit Court
throws out Wong’s
criminal case

The judge says that the Supreme
Court maintains jurisdiction

By Debra Barayuga

Saying Circuit Court has no jurisdiction, a judge has thrown out the latest criminal charges against former Bishop Estate Chairman Richard "Dickie" Wong, the third time he has done so.

"I'm very happy," said Wong yesterday as he left the courtroom with friends and family members.

Wong said he and his children have suffered because of the allegations, and he hopes the dismissal means an end to the state's pursuit of criminal charges against him.

"I fervently hope the attorney general will put a stop to it."

In his ruling, Circuit Judge Michael Town noted that the latest perjury charges brought in April are based on the same offenses and events for which Wong was indicted earlier, in December 1999.

Town tossed out those counts last year, saying the Attorney General's Office provided improper testimony that prejudiced Wong's right to a fair trial. Those counts are currently on appeal in the Hawaii Supreme Court.

"The court finds that jurisdiction on all counts remains with the Supreme Court, and this court has no jurisdiction unless and until these matters are specifically mandated or remanded back by the Supreme Court," Town said.

The charges on appeal and the latest indictment stemmed from testimony Wong gave to a grand jury about his lack of involvement in Bishop Estate's sale of the Kalele Kai condominium project to a partnership affiliated with his former brother-in-law Jeffrey Stone.

Deputy Attorney General Lawrence Goya had argued last week that the state had made significant changes in the new indictment and that the latest charges were based on different statements Wong had made, new evidence and a new theory of prosecution.

Eric Seitz, Wong's attorney, had argued, and the court agreed, that the state cannot pursue criminal charges against an individual in two courts.

"It's a reflection of the fact that the attorney general has been literally rabid about this case and is doing something no self-respecting attorney general would do," Seitz said.

Seitz had argued that the state, at the least, should have waited for the Supreme Court's decision before indicting his client again.

Town said that in order for the state to pursue a new indictment, it will need an order or mandate from the Supreme Court.

"To do otherwise would not be in the interest of fairness and would further be a waste of this court's time and resources," he said.

Seitz said the state could possibly go forward with a perjury count in the previous indictment where the court had ruled there was probable cause, but not until the Supreme Court rules.

Deputy Attorney General Joann Hao declined comment on Town's ruling.

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