An assault charge filed against a prominent Honolulu developer was dismissed earlier this year after the court determined the case had dragged on too long.
Bert Akio “B.J.” Kobayashi was accused of slapping a woman in June 2018 at the Azure Restaurant at the Royal Hawaiian, the police report states, and he was charged with third-degree assault in April 2019.
Kobayashi is the chairman and CEO of BlackSand Capital, a local real estate private equity firm, and founding partner of the Kobayashi Group, a property development and real estate investment company.
By May 2020, the case had been marked “inactive” in court records. The Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney’s Office said the case couldn’t proceed because it was unable to locate Kobayashi to serve him a summons.
However, the office found Kobayashi four days after Civil Beat asked about the case. Legal experts questioned the delay in serving the summons as possible special treatment for a powerful person. In a statement last year, Kobayashi said he had believed the matter was already “fully resolved” and had never asked for special treatment.
The case was continued several times at the request of the defense, the court docket shows. Meanwhile, the judge initially assigned to the case, Karin Holma, recused herself in November because her former law firm had represented Kobayashi in an unrelated matter.
Kobayashi pleaded not guilty on Jan. 25.
In March, Kobayashi’s attorney Thomas Otake filed a motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that too much time had elapsed since the charge was filed. Rule 48 of Hawaii’s Rules of Penal Procedurestates that a case shall be dismissed if a trial has not commenced within six months of the filing of the charge.
Prosecutor Tiffany Aukai opposed Otake’s motion, arguing in a memorandum that some of the delays were due to “the extraordinary circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“Defendant’s actions exhibited a clear disregard for the safety and wellbeing of others,” she wrote. “Justice would not be served if the State is not allowed the opportunity to reprosecute this case based on the seriousness of the offenses.”
But Judge Thomas Haia was not swayed. On April 14, he dismissed Kobayashi’s case with prejudice, meaning it cannot be refiled.
Kobayashi declined to discuss his case on the record. A message left with Otake’s office on Tuesday was not returned.
The Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney’s Office also did not respond to a request for comment.
The woman who Kobayashi was accused of hitting did not respond to a message.
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