Rodrigues loses
bid for acquittal

U.S. District Judge David Ezra
finds no reason for a new trial
for the ex-UPW chief

By Debra Barayuga

Former United Public Workers State Director Gary Rodrigues has lost another round in his efforts to obtain a new trial or reversal of his federal convictions for mail fraud, money laundering and embezzlement.

In an 88-page order issued a week ago, U.S. District Judge David Ezra denied Rodrigues' and daughter Robin Haunani Rodrigues Sabatini's post-trial motions for judgment of acquittal and for a new trial.

Rodrigues and his daughter were convicted Nov. 19 on a total of 101 counts that also included health insurance fraud. Rodrigues was also convicted of accepting kickbacks.

Federal prosecutors had maintained Rodrigues, UPW state director since 1981, used his power and position to negotiate inflated health, dental and life insurance premiums for union members and funneled the excess to his daughter in the form of consulting fees for sham work. The government also alleged Rodrigues accepted kickbacks from the union's insurance agent.

The defendants' attorneys had maintained that neither Rodrigues nor Sabatini had done anything criminal, that Rodrigues has always acted in the best interest of the union and that Sabatini did consulting work for the union and was paid for it.

Doron Weinberg, Rodrigues' San Francisco-based attorney, said Ezra's ruling is consistent with the position the court has taken since the beginning of trial.

Weinberg had said after Rodrigues was found guilty that they intended to appeal.

In its motion, the defense had raised numerous allegations and issues, including erroneous or deficient jury instructions, inconsistent verdicts and insufficient evidence.

The defense also maintained that the court's rulings on the admissibility of certain evidence and trial procedures prevented them from getting a fair trial. They argued that the court made "overtly hostile and prejudicial comments during the trial that undermined the credibility and effectiveness of defendants' counsel."

Ezra found the government had proved its burden on each of the counts charged, and found no error that seriously affected the "fairness and integrity of judicial proceedings" to warrant a new trial, acquittal or reversal of the convictions.

Ezra also noted the court did not abuse its discretion in permitting certain testimony objected to by the defense. He found that in light of all evidence presented, the court's comments were not prejudicial.

Rodrigues, who resigned as state director shortly after his conviction, and Sabatini remain free on bail pending sentencing May 12.

The defense will have 10 days after sentencing to file notice of appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Richard Hoke, attorney for Sabatini, said his client also intends to appeal.

E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2003 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --