Ex-housing official fined
for Harris donations

A judge has fined a former state housing official $6,000 for making illegal political contributions to former Mayor Jeremy Harris, comparing the violations to driving a car "over the speed limit."

Circuit Judge Richard Perkins yesterday ordered Wesley Segawa, a past chairman of the Housing and Community Development Corp. of Hawaii, to perform 300 hours of community service.

The judge also granted Segawa's request for a deferral, which gives him the opportunity to get his criminal case dismissed if he stays out of trouble for five years.

"He, like many others who have recently been appearing before the courts, was caught up in a culture of campaign spending law circumvention that was roughly analogous to a bunch of people driving their car over the speed limit because it seemed like everybody else was doing it and there were no police officers in sight," Perkins said.

"It doesn't mean it was right. But whatever the situation was then, attitudes have change dramatically since these prosecutions began."

The 52-year-old Segawa, president of Hilo-based Wesley Segawa & Associates Inc., pleaded no contest in December to a felony charge of laundering political donations to the Harris campaign. He also pleaded no contest to making a campaign contribution under a false name, which is a misdemeanor.

Deputy Prosecutor Chris Van Marter said that the judge's analogy "was a gross minimization of the long pattern of criminal conduct" by Segawa, who funneled more than $41,000 in illegal campaign donations to Harris and other political candidates.

Van Marter, who had asked for probation, said that Segawa said in a letter to the court that he made illegal contributions because "there was this hope that he would receive nonbid government contracts."

"It undermines the political process because the defendant was essentially buying these nonbid contracts," Van Marter said. "What he did is contribute to a corrupt political process."

Segawa was chairman of the Housing and Community Development Corp., which oversees the state's public housing program, until 2002. He was forced to resign from the state post after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development criticized the state agency's former director, Sharyn Miyashiro, for awarding an $800,000 nonbid contract to a company headed by her ex-husband, Dennis Mitsunaga.

Mitsunaga, who is the target of investigations by the prosecutor's office and the state Campaign Spending Commission, is related to Segawa.

During yesterday's hearing, Segawa apologized to the court for the "hurt and shame" that he brought to the community, his family and his friends. His attorney Darwin Ching argued that Segawa was eligible for a deferral because he cooperated with investigators and is not likely to commit new offenses.

Campaign Spending Commission

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