Court upholds
Mirikitani conviction

A federal appeals court yesterday upheld the 2001 conviction of former City Councilman Andy Mirikitani on charges of theft, bribery, extortion, wire fraud and witness tampering.

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco affirmed the lower court's verdict, citing its previous ruling in the case of Mirikitani's wife and co-defendant, Sharron Bynum, and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier this year.

"We're obviously pleased that the conviction was affirmed," said Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Michael Seabright.

Mirikitani is serving a four-year and three-month federal prison sentence and is scheduled to be released Sept. 28, 2005.

"We're looking at it (the ruling) and considering the options at this point," said Georgia McMillen, a Maui attorney who represents Mirikitani. She declined further comment.

Mirikitani was charged in a scheme that offered two former aides large bonuses if they kicked back a share of the money to him.

On appeal, Mirikitani challenged the constitutionality of a federal law making it illegal to engage in theft or bribery from an entity that receives federal funds and said the government did not prove there was a connection between the bribe and the federal funds.

The 9th Circuit in April 2003 rejected that argument in Bynum's case, noting that the City and County of Honolulu received more than $140 million in federal funds in 1999, the year Mirikitani was accused of giving the kickbacks.

Bynum, who married Mirikitani days before his sentencing, was found guilty of theft and extortion in the scheme but was acquitted of a bribery charge and served a one year, nine month sentence.

In its opinion, written by Chief Judge Mary M. Schroeder, the 9th Circuit panel also cited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling earlier this year in another case that upheld the federal law and said no connection needs to be shown between the bribery and the federal funds.



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