A high-level Honolulu prosecutor has returned from a leave of absence that began in December 2018 when he was identified as a subject in a federal investigation.
Chasid Sapolu started working at the Honolulu Department of the Prosecuting Attorney again on Tuesday, the office announced in a brief press release. He is assigned to the juvenile offender unit, the release said.
“Chasid is a talented attorney,” Acting Prosecuting Attorney Dwight Nadamoto said in a statement. “He has been on the sideline for a long time. Now more than ever we can use all the help we can get. We welcome Chasid back and have already put him to work.”
Nadamoto did not specify what prompted Sapolu’s return. Prosecutor’s office spokesman Brooks Baehr did not respond to questions.
Sapolu’s return to work comes as federal investigators continue their probe into local corruption after taking a coronavirus-related hiatus. Led by Michael Wheat, a special prosecutor appointed by the U.S. Justice Department in San Diego, the effort has already resulted in the convictions of former prosecutor Katherine Kealoha, her husband and former Police Chief Louis Kealoha and two police officers.
Elected Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro, who selected Sapolu to be his top deputy, remains on paid leave. He received an FBI target letter, meaning investigators have “substantial evidence” linking him to criminal activity, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Sapolu’s attorney Randall Hironaka said that his client remains a “subject” whose conduct is within the scope of a grand jury’s investigation.
“He still has that letter. Nothing’s changed. To our knowledge, it hasn’t been rescinded or anything like that,” Hironaka said. “He’s still cooperating. He’s not hiding anything.”
In a statement issued through his attorney, Sapolu reiterated that he is cooperating with “investigative authorities.”
“As I return to work, I continue to believe that the system I am dedicated to serving will find that I have done nothing wrong,” he said.
Sapolu also noted that he took his leave of absence voluntarily.
“My decision was made in the interest of cooperating fully with any law enforcement investigation and to allow the prosecutor’s office to meet its important objectives without distraction,” he said.
Sapolu’s return coincides with the recent retirement of former Honolulu Corporation Counsel Donna Leong.
The city’s top civil attorney had been on paid leave since January 2019 but was transitioned to unpaid leave in May. She issued a letter of resignation in July and officially retired on Aug. 1, citing unspecified recent actions by Mayor Kirk Caldwell.
Meanwhile, Caldwell’s managing director, Roy Amemiya, has also received a subject letter but has been allowed to continue running the daily operations of the city.
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