The ‘Miske Enterprise’: Trial For The Accused Crime Boss Is Being Postponed Again
Defense attorneys say there is too much evidence being turned over by the government to analyze in a short time, including more than 700,000 pages of documents, wiretap recordings of numerous telephones and dozens of forensic reports.
It will be at least another year before Michael J. Miske Jr., the former Honolulu businessman accused of racketeering, drug trafficking, kidnapping and murder-for-hire, along with seven co-defendants, will face a trial by jury in federal court.
Miske is the former owner of Kamaaina Termite and Pest Control, Oahu Termite and Pest Control, M Nightclub and its successor, Encore, and several other local businesses, which federal prosecutors allege were used to conceal the activities of a broad criminal conspiracy he controlled and directed.
Last month, Miske co-defendant Delia-Anne Fabro-Miske, through her attorney, John Schum, asked for the trial to be delayed in order to provide sufficient time to assess and evaluate the massive amount of evidence that has been turned over to the defendants and their attorneys in the process of discovery.
The trial, which had been set to begin in September, was originally scheduled to be held in September 2020, and had already been delayed four previous times.
But following a hearing last week before Magistrate Judge Kenneth Mansfield, the trial has now been pushed back again, and is scheduled to begin with jury selection on April 17, 2023.
Fabro-Miske was married to Mike Miske’s son, Caleb, who died in March 2016 as the result of injuries received in an auto accident several months previously. Caleb’s best friend, Jonathan Fraser, was also in the car. Fraser survived the crash, while Caleb eventually succumbed to his injuries.
Miske wrongly accused Fraser of being behind the wheel at the time of the crash. Prosecutors allege Miske then orchestrated and financed Fraser’s kidnapping and murder-for-hire. Fraser disappeared suddenly on July 30, 2016.
Following Fraser’s disappearance and alleged murder, Miske designated Fabro-Miske as manager of several of his businesses, including Kamaaina Termite, state business registration records show. Federal prosecutors have alleged Fabro-Miske’s name was used as part of a ploy to hide Miske’s continued ownership of these businesses while under pressure from an intensifying federal investigation.
Fabro-Miske was added as a defendant in a July 2021 superseding indictment. She is charged with being part of Miske’s racketeering conspiracy, and also with bank fraud, stemming from her role in managing his businesses.
Defense attorneys and prosecutors agree that this case may involve more evidence than any other ever handled by a Hawaii court.
The latest trial delay was approved over the objections of two defendants, John B. Stancil, who is Mike Miske’s half-brother, and Jarrin Young, an alleged drug dealer who prosecutors say took part in a drug trafficking conspiracy with Miske and others.
If the trial proceeds as scheduled in April 2023, it will have been almost three years since the racketeering conspiracy charges were filed, and six or more years since many of the incidents described in the indictment occurred.
Such delays could cause difficulty for prosecutors in two ways. First, memories of even key details can be expected to fade over time, and defense attorneys can be expected to jump on memory lapses of prosecution witnesses, using any inconsistencies in their testimony to undermine their credibility in the eyes of jurors.
In addition, the kidnapping and murder of 21-year-old Jonathan Fraser can be expected to have a significant impact on jurors, but the more time and distance between the initial public outrage over the alleged murder and the actual trial, the more years that pass, the greater the chance that defense attorneys can find ways to mitigate the visceral impact the murder could have on jurors.
Although every defendant has a right to a speedy trial, the unusual amount of evidence in this case made this latest extension of time almost inevitable. Defense attorneys and prosecutors agree that this case may involve more evidence than any other ever handled by a Hawaii court.
Fabro-Miske’s attorney, John Schum, was appointed by the court to represent Fabro-Miske on Nov. 4, 2021. A declaration accompanying his motion to continue the trial to a later date described the immense task of processing the vast amount of evidence collected over the course of the years-long federal investigation.
“Shortly after being appointed, I received the Government’s Discovery Productions 1-4, which consists of in excess of 700,000 pages, wiretap recordings on 8 telephones over a three-month period, and approximately 39 forensic reports from seized digital devices,” Schum wrote in his declaration.
Schum said that in addition to the information disclosed to him to date, there is an unusually large amount of evidence that, so far, has been provided only to Mike Miske’s attorneys, but is relevant to his own client’s defense as well.
On Sept. 1, prosecutors released 60 gigabytes of unredacted records to Miske, “which consist of unredacted business and financial records, IRS records, and DCCA records,” according to Schum.
On Dec. 23, just two days before Christmas, the government released 42 hard-drives amounting to 32.4 terabytes of data, said to have been gathered by “pole cam surveillance” of the Queen Street building that housed the offices of Kamaaina Termite and other Miske-owned businesses, Schum said.
Earlier this year, the government produced another 36 terabytes of digital data, consisting “primarily of digital data seized from the businesses, as well as digital data seized from 559 Kumukahi Pl., all of which was seized on July 15, 2020.”
In January, “the Government produced approximately 2.63 TB of digital data to Miske only, including digital data that was seized from 1226 Kuuna Street on July 15, 2020, in Ms. Fabro-Miske’s presence,” Schum wrote.
“On January 10, 2022, the Government produced approximately 1 million files to the Coordinating Discovery Attorney (CDA), which, according to the Government’s transmittal letter, consists primarily of documents which were seized from KTPC and 559 Kumukahi,” Schum said. It is not clear whether there were two different releases of data during January, or whether Schum’s declaration included two descriptions of the same business records.
Approximately 41,000 pages of documents released in February were from AATS, “an accounting firm where Ms. Fabro-Miske’s alleged co-conspirator, CPA Tricia Castro, was employed.”
Castro was charged in June 2021 with conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and conspiracy to commit bank fraud. She pleaded guilty a week later, admitting she had prepared and filed false tax returns on behalf of Miske-owned businesses, as well as fraudulent personal tax returns for Miske, Fabro-Miske and Jason Yokoyama, who was a business partner in the nightclub. She also pleaded guilty to providing false documentation that Miske later used to qualify for a bank loan. She is currently awaiting sentencing.
All of the business records being disclosed by the government are “material to preparing Ms. Fabro-Miske’s defense and must be reviewed,” Schum argued.
Mike Miske has a long criminal history. He was hit with his first felony charge when he was just 19, and was convicted of multiple felonies at 21. But by the time he was 26, he was the owner of a small company, Kamaaina Termite and Pest Control, which grew over the years to become one of the best known local pest control businesses, due in part to its heavy direct mail advertising.
Miske earned a reputation for violence, which became widely known following a series of highly publicized attacks by security staff against customers at his M Nightclub in Kakaako between 2012 and 2016.
Miske and most of his original 10 co-conspirators were arrested in a series of pre-dawn raids conducted at homes and businesses across Honolulu in July 2020 by FBI agents and other federal law enforcement agents, many flown in from the mainland in advance of the raids.
Miske and seven remaining co-defendants are charged with being part of a racketeering conspiracy that engaged in offenses ranging from bank fraud and drug trafficking to murder and murder-for-hire, kidnapping, assault, assault with a dangerous chemical, armed robbery and weapons offenses.
Five co-defendants charged alongside Miske have already pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. In addition, at least six others, including Castro, were charged separately and have also pleaded guilty. All are now cooperating with prosecutors against Miske and other former associates.
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Ian Lind is an award-winning investigative reporter and columnist who has been blogging daily for more than 20 years. He has also worked as a newsletter publisher, public interest advocate and lobbyist for Common Cause in Hawaii, peace educator, and legislative staffer. Lind is a lifelong resident of the islands. Read his blog here. Opinions are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Civil Beat's views.