Suspect warned on
firing fifth attorney

A former Maui beauty queen facing trial for forgery and theft charges has been warned not to dismiss her attorney, the sixth to represent her, unless she is prepared to represent herself.


Lisa Otsuka: The former Maui beauty queen faces trial on charges of theft and forgery

Circuit Judge Dexter Del Rosario approved attorney Richard Hoke's request yesterday to withdraw as Lisa Otsuka's attorney and substitute new counsel after finding "good cause."

In court documents, Hoke requested that he be allowed to withdraw because Otsuka was not paying his fees, as outlined in a retainer contract.

Otsuka, 35, called as a witness in the city prosecutor's criminal investigation into former Mayor Jeremy Harris' political campaign, was indicted twice in the fall of 2002 in two unrelated cases.

She was accused of writing herself checks for more than $12,000 as a freelance bookkeeper for Hon/Hawaii Service Inc., a now-defunct auto repair business in Kakaako. She was also charged with stealing $3,000 from a nonprofit Tahitian dance troupe that was raising money for at-risk youths. Otsuka has denied wrongdoing.

Yesterday, Del Rosario echoed concerns raised by the prosecutor about past delays and the number of attorneys Otsuka has hired and let go.

He cautioned that if she failed to keep newly retained attorney William Harrison, he would take it as waiving her right to counsel, and she would have to represent herself.

"You can't keep changing lawyers. At some point you need to put an end to this," Del Rosario said.

Otsuka's former attorneys have cited her failure to keep appointments to prepare for hearings and trial. She has cited difficulty with a pregnancy last year. She has since given birth and is pregnant with a second child, due in a few months.

Deputy Prosecutor Chris Van Marter said the cases against Otsuka have been pending for nearly three years, and during that time she has retained five attorneys, only to have them withdraw for various reasons.

"It appears whenever a new attorney comes on board, it causes a delay in trial," Van Marter said.

Harrison assured the court they have no desire to delay the trial, currently scheduled for Oct. 17, and are prepared.

However, he said, previous counsel filed motions to suppress statements Otsuka made to police, and he has yet to go through nearly two boxes of material. Harrison asked to keep the trial date but delay a hearing to determine whether Otsuka's statements are admissible at trial.

Del Rosario set a hearing for Aug. 31 but urged the parties to attempt a negotiated settlement before the case goes to trial.

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