Acting Honolulu Prosecutor Dwight Nadamoto has officially joined the race to keep the job.

Nadamoto, who became acting prosecutor a year ago when his boss, Keith Kaneshiro, went on paid leave after receiving a target letter in a federal corruption probe, announced his intention to run at a press conference Monday.

He joins five other candidates: retired judge Steve Alm, former deputy prosecutor RJ Brown, public defender Jacquelyn Esser, former deputy prosecutor Megan Kau and defense attorney Tae Kim.

The acting prosecutor registered with the state Campaign Spending Commission as a candidate back in December, but had not announced until now. Nadamoto said Monday that was because he was carefully watching who else was going to run.

Acting Prosecutor Dwight Nadamoto outside Circuit Court, announcing his run for prosecutor.
Acting Prosecutor Dwight Nadamoto announced his run for prosecutor Monday, outside Circuit Court in downtown Honolulu. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

Nadamoto said his priorities would include protecting victims of domestic violence, prosecuting vehicular homicides and aggressively pursuing sex traffickers.

“We are going to show that we don’t need prosecutors who are soft on crime or defense attorneys who want to be a prosecutor,” he said. “We need a law and order prosecutor.”

Three of his opponents — Esser, Kau and Kim — currently work as defense attorneys.

Nadamoto said he retired in 2008, but came out of retirement in 2010 at the request of Kaneshiro to take a top spot at the prosecutor’s office.

Under Kaneshiro’s watch, one of his deputies, Chasid Sapolu, received a subject letter in the federal corruption probe and another, Katherine Kealoha, was indicted and later convicted of numerous criminal charges, including conspiracy, fraud and misprision of a felony.

“We have already started to introduce safeguards against what has happened,” Nadamoto said. “I mean, the office is changing.”

He said his office has set up an anonymous tip line that members of the public and staff members can use to report wrongdoing or suspicious activity.

Nadamoto was also served with a subpoena from federal officials in November last year, which he said he has fully complied with.

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