The effort to impeach Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro by a local businessman has been faltering since a state Circuit Court judge ruled earlier this year that the city clerk’s office doesn’t have to accept electronic signatures.
But Tracy Yoshimura isn’t backing down. Last week, he filed a motion for reconsideration because, he and his attorney say, the issue is too important.
Kaneshiro has been on paid leave since March after he received a target letter from the U.S. Justice Department in a federal corruption probe that also involves two of his deputies — Katherine Kealoha and Chasid Sapolu.
Sapolu, Kaneshiro’s chief deputy who received a subject letter in the investigation, is also on paid leave.
But Kealoha was convicted of conspiracy and obstruction charges in June, along with her husband, former Honolulu Police Department chief Louis Kealoha and two of his officers, Derek Hahn and Minh-Hung “Bobby” Nguyen. Two other HPD officers also pleaded guilty in connection with the Justice Department investigation.
Yoshimura initially filed the impeachment petition in Circuit Court in December. William McCorriston, an attorney representing Kaneshiro, tried to get the case thrown out in June, but First Circuit Judge Jeffrey Crabtree allowed it to move forward then.
However, in July, Crabtree dismissed the case, siding with city officials who said they do not have to accept electronic signatures. The Honolulu Corporation Counsel has consistently made that argument in this case.
The city clerk’s office is not a direct party in the case, but is involved because of the impeachment petition. The Corporation Counsel represents the clerk’s office.
“The Department of Corporation Counsel believes the judge’s initial ruling was correct,” city spokesman Andrew Pereira said.
The city charter requires at least 500 signatures for impeachment petitions.
State law says each governmental agency “shall determine” whether it will accept electronic signatures. But Kiuchi, Yoshimura’s attorney, pointed out that the city didn’t adopt any specific rules to accept or not accept, and arbitrarily decided in this case not to accept.
Kiuchi and Yoshimura said they have asked the Corporation Counsel for written policy on electronic signatures but were denied.
“We think the issue of electronic signatures is almost as big of an issue,” Kiuchi said, adding that they would like to set a precedent. They have set up a website to gather signatures, which they say is far easier.
Meanwhile, Yoshimura and Kiuchi say they have collected handwritten signatures but don’t have an accurate count.
“To me, (Kaneshiro) has been the gatekeeper for Honolulu county’s justice system for eons now,” Yoshimura said. “The corruption just flourished under his guidance and with him in that seat.”
McCorriston said Yoshimura and Kiuchi’s new motion is without merit and that they are just making the same arguments over and over.
“They’re poor sports,” he said.
He pointed out that Yoshimura stands to benefit personally getting Kaneshiro removed from office, because the businessman is suing the prosecutor for what he says was an unfair investigation into his game room businesses.
When asked what Kaneshiro is up to lately, McCorriston said his client is “fully engaged in activities” but that he didn’t know exactly in what.
Kaneshiro is up for re-election in 2020. A number of candidates are already lining up to run against him.
Stay Up To Date On The Coronavirus And Other Hawaii Issues
Before you go
Civil Beat is a small nonprofit newsroom that provides free content with no paywall. That means readership growth alone can’t sustain our journalism.
The truth is that less than 1% of our monthly readers are financial supporters. To remain a viable business model for local news, we need a higher percentage of readers-turned-donors.