Wednesday, June 27, 2001

Mirikitani says
he was ‘sloppy’

He claims he delayed cashing
checks due to his busy schedule

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

Attorneys will give closing arguments tomorrow morning in the kickback trial of City Councilman Andy Mirikitani in federal court.

Mirikitani attorney John Edmunds rested his case yesterday, the ninth day of the jury trial before U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor.

William Domingo, the attorney for codefendant Sharron Bynum, rested without calling any witnesses.

Mirikitani, 45, is charged with bribery, theft, extortion, witness tampering and wire fraud. Bynum, Mirikitani's 52-year-old girlfriend, is charged with being his accomplice.

Federal prosecutors say Mirikitani gave bonuses to two former aides in exchange for $6,884 in kickbacks because he was desperate for money to pay off mounting legal fees tied to an unrelated civil case.

If convicted, Mirikitani faces up to 65 years in prison and a fine of up to $1.5 million.

Mirikitani spent much of his third day on the witness stand explaining the trail of a $4,000 check to the Friends of Andy Mirikitani that he received from former chief aide Cindy McMillan.

Under questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Seabright, Mirikitani said he attributed $2,000 of that contribution to McMillan and the other $2,000 to Karl Rhoads, McMillan's husband, because he believed checks from couples are supposed to be reported separately. But Seabright noted that when checks coming from other husband-and-wife checking accounts were reported, the campaign listed them as only one contribution.

Seabright also questioned Mirikitani about why he did not deposit the check, dated July 15, until Aug. 27. McMillan had earlier testified that Mirikitani told her that he would delay cashing the check to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

Mirikitani said he often doesn't deposit checks for long periods of time because he is busy. Later, under questioning by Edmunds, Mirikitani said he had to ask for a new check from Castle & Cooke after the corporation stopped payment on a $2,000 contribution that had been left uncashed for a year.

"My only explanation is I'm sloppy and this was an oversight," Mirikitani said.

Mirikitani was also grilled by Seabright over why he cashed the $4,000 McMillan check from the Makiki branch of First Hawaiian Bank and then waited five hours to deposit the cash into his personal account at another branch of First Hawaiian downtown.

Mirikitani said he wanted to make copies of the receipts and think first about how best to document the transfer, noting that he believed what he was doing could be criticized even though he felt it was legal.

At that, Seabright shouted "Mr. Mirikitani, weren't you just trying to hide your trail?"

Mirikitani responded: "Absolutely not."

Mirikitani says McMillan gave her contributions to his campaign fund voluntarily and that former aide Jonn Serikawa paid only $200 to a third party for plane tickets as reimbursement for car repairs because the aide had gotten into an accident while driving the Councilman's van.

The day ended with Bynum announcing that she would not testify on her own behalf in the trial. Neither Bynum nor Domingo have addressed a Serikawa pay stub that has her handwriting on it.

Prosecutors say the numbers show how she directed Serikawa about how much he should give as a kickback

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