Officials look into
Otsuka’s $300,000

Prosecutors are trying to trace
money paid to an ex-beauty queen
by the mayor's pollster

By Rick Daysog

City prosecutors are attempting to trace more than $300,000 that was paid to a former Maui beauty queen by a former consultant to Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris' political campaign.

Lisa-Katharine Otsuka: Her attorney says she wants immunity from prosecution for her testimony

Witnesses contacted by Prosecutor Peter Carlisle's office told the Star-Bulletin that investigators have asked about dozens of transactions over a two-year period between Lisa-Katharine Otsuka and a company headed by local public relations and polling executive Harry Mattson.

More than $75,000, or about one-fourth of the money, originated from Harris' 2000 re-election campaign, as was previously reported by the Star-Bulletin.

But a majority of the money appears to be unrelated to the Harris campaign and may have originated from local business and political sources whose names were not disclosed, witnesses said.

News of the prosecutors' inquiries come as Otsuka was scheduled to appear today before an Oahu grand jury that is investigating Harris' political campaign.

Mattson and his partner Norma Wong went before the grand jury this morning.

Carlisle's office declined comment.

Otsuka's attorney, Paul Cunney, has characterized payments from Mattson to Otsuka as legitimate but would not go into specifics. Cunney said he is waiting to hear from prosecutors if they are willing to offer Otsuka immunity in exchange for her testimony.

"The ball is in the prosecutor's court," Cunney said. "They're the ones who have to make the decision on what they want to do."

Harris -- the Democratic front-runner for this year's governor's race before he pulled out in May -- has said he does not know Otsuka. His attorney, William McCorriston, said that Otsuka has no connection to the city nor the Harris campaign and that neither organization made payments to her.

"Assuming that there are other payments from other sources, then it shows that (the payments to Otsuka) are not related to the Harris campaign," McCorriston said. "We don't know why she's part of this investigation."

Mattson and his attorney could not be reached for comment. In the past, Mattson said that Otsuka played no role in the Harris campaign.

According to Mattson, the $75,000 was his own personal funds that he invested with Otsuka, whom he believed at the time to be a successful entrepreneur.

Mattson gave no details about the investment.

Prosecutors are focusing on money sent to Otsuka's account from Campaign Service Inc., a local polling and public relations firm headed by Mattson and Wong, a former state representative.

Mattson and Wong are longtime supporters of former Gov. John Waihee and have worked on Harris' political campaign.

Prosecutors have subpoenaed the bank records of Otsuka and Mattson and have asked Otsuka to produce a handwriting sample.

They also have administered a polygraph test to Mattson.

Several witnesses said that Otsuka worked for Mattson during the 2002 state Democratic Party Convention at the Sheraton-Waikiki Hotel, where she helped provide catering services for a hospitality room.

A nonprofit organization headed by Otsuka, Aloha Honor Scholars Foundation, also listed the same Nuuanu Avenue address as Mattson's company.

A 1987 graduate of Baldwin High School, the 32-year-old Otsuka is a former Miss Maui who was stripped of the title over a dispute about her school transcripts.

In September, Otsuka was arrested for contempt of court after she failed to appear before the grand jury investigating the Harris campaign. That same month, she was indicted for allegedly stealing $3,000 that a Wahiawa nonprofit group raised for at-risk youths. Honolulu police officers also arrested Otsuka in August on suspicion of promoting prostitution.

Otsuka was not charged in the prostitution arrest and has pleaded not guilty to the theft charge.

Her attorney, Cunney, said his client is the target of a "witch hunt," and complained that prosecutors are using the arrest and the indictment to force his client to testify.

Otsuka, who last appeared before the grand jury on Oct. 17, has refused to answer several questions from the grand jury unless she is granted immunity from prosecution.

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