Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Former Honolulu City Councilman Andy Mirikitani, right, filed for bankruptcy yesterday, claiming he owes nearly $1.4 million. His criminal defense attorney John Edmunds, left, has withdrawn, and Mirikitani owes his firm $340,000

Mirikitani files

The former Honolulu councilman
lists debts of nearly $1.4 million

By Tim Ruel

Former Honolulu Councilman Andy Mirikitani, convicted on federal charges, filed for Chapter 7 personal bankruptcy yesterday, saying he has only $100 left in the bank and nearly $1.4 million in liabilities.

The petition appears to confirm what federal prosecutors have said before: Mirikitani, 46, has fallen deeply into debt because of legal battles surrounding his family's estate, not to mention his recent federal trial.

A federal jury found Mirikitani guilty on July 3 of theft, bribery, extortion, wire fraud and witness tampering. Federal prosecutors said Mirikitani gave $26,533 in bonuses to two council staff aides in exchange for $6,884 in kickbacks.

Mirikitani's defense attorney John Edmunds withdrew Friday from representing the embattled ex-councilman because Mirikitani can no longer afford a private law firm, according to a federal court filing. Mirikitani owes Edmunds' firm $340,000, a claim backed by mortgages on two properties in which Mirikitani holds an interest. Mirikitani is seeking to have the court appoint an attorney for him. Edmunds declined comment yesterday.

Mirikitani has filed a notice of appeal of his conviction and has asked the court that he not have to prepay appeal fees because he cannot afford to. In his appeal, Mirikitani said the wire fraud conviction was erroneous and corrupted the entire verdict, among other arguments.

Mirikitani's only current source of income is the $1,300-a-month retirement he gets from the city following his resignation Dec. 1. His salary on the council had been $3,890 a month.

Mirikitani's bankruptcy attorney Dawn Smith has not received fees for filing the bankruptcy petition. Smith could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Mirikitani's unsecured liabilities include nearly $70,000 in credit card debt, $6,000 owed to the city and a $4,000 personal loan from his new spouse, Sharron Bynum Mirikitani, records show.

Sharron, a former city employee, was sentenced to one year and nine months in prison and three years of supervised release for assisting in the kickback scheme. The two married the day before Mirikitani resigned from the council, making Sharron eligible for city benefits.

U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor sentenced Andy Mirikitani on Dec. 6 to four years and three months in prison. Gillmor recommended that Mirikitani be imprisoned at Nellis Camp near Las Vegas, as requested by Edmunds.

Under the terms of his sentencing, Mirikitani must pay his own way to the mainland when he surrenders Jan. 17 to authorities. One-way flights to Vegas currently go for at least $360.

A meeting of Mirikitani's creditors is scheduled for Jan. 9 at U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Honolulu, just before the start of Mirikitani's sentence.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Seabright declined comment yesterday. Mirikitani could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, the Hawaii Supreme Court's Office of Disciplinary Counsel said yesterday it has issued a restraining order to bar Mirikitani, an inactive attorney, from practicing law until he has finished serving his sentence. The move is standard in a case that involves felony charges or dishonesty, said Brian C. Means, assistant disciplinary counsel.

Mirikitani is the highest-ranking public official in Hawaii to be convicted of a federal crime. Under Chapter 7, the bankruptcy court appoints a trustee to liquidate assets to pay creditors, although certain possessions can be exempted.

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