A petition to remove Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro from his elected office was filed in 1st Circuit Court on Tuesday.
The petition, signed by 864 people, follows recent news reports that federal prosecutors have notified Kaneshiro he is the target of an expanding criminal probe into law enforcement in Honolulu. Neither federal prosecutors nor Kaneshiro have confirmed or denied the existence of the target letter.
That didn’t stop Tracy Yoshimura, a two-time target of Kaneshiro’s office, from launching an online petition to impeach Kaneshiro. After receiving more than the 500 signatures required by the City Charter, Yoshimura and his attorney, Keith Kiuchi, filed a motion for a hearing on the matter Tuesday afternoon.
While Yoshimura concedes that Kaneshiro has not been accused of anything, he believes the prosecutor’s presence in the office after reportedly being informed he himself is a criminal target could imperil future criminal cases.
“The mere possibility of a conviction is enough reason to take administrative actions,” Yoshimura said.
After the petition was filed, it was assigned to be heard by Circuit Judge Jeffrey Crabtree. A hearing date has not been scheduled.
In 2014 and 2016, Kaneshiro’s office tried and failed to make an illegal gambling case against Yoshimura, who is a gaming machine distributor. Yoshimura is currently suing Kaneshiro in federal court for wrongful prosecution.
While Kaneshiro has offered little in the way of comment since reports about the target letter surfaced, he insisted in a brief Hawaii News Now interview this week that he intends to remain in office.
“I was elected to serve four years,” he said.
“The comment about him being elected for four years in no way was a guarantee that he’d be able to stay in regardless of what happens,” Yoshimura said Tuesday.
Last week, Kaneshiro’s chief deputy, Chasid Sapolu announced he was taking a leave of absence after receiving notice from federal attorneys that some of his actions may be the “subject” of additional investigation.
But the 69-year-old Kaneshiro’s reticence to answer questions about the reported target letter and what it means for his office has many in the legal community calling for him to step aside for the time being.
It’s been more than a year since Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha and his wife, Katherine Kealoha, a former assistant prosecutor in Kaneshiro’s office, were indicted on corruption and bank fraud charges.
They will be tried on the corruption charges, along with four Honolulu Police Department officers, next spring. A separate bank fraud case is scheduled to begin next summer.
Now that the impeachment petition is filed, Honolulu heads into uncharted waters. Impeachment proceedings in two previous cases were halted before they could get underway.
In 2002, a petition was filed to remove then-City Councilman Rene Mansho. The petition was filed in the Hawaii Supreme Court, as specified by the charter. But the case was dismissed after Mansho admitted she used campaign funds for personal expenses and resigned.
In 2010, the Hawaii Supreme Court found the attempted recall and impeachment of Maui County Councilman Sol Kahoohalahala over his residency was inappropriate because the Maui County Charter spelled out how to deal with residency requirements, making impeachment unnecessary.