Hundreds of names have been submitted by the Miske defense as well as the prosecution.
Editor’s note:Civil Beat contributor Ian Lind will be dropping in on the federal racketeering trial of Mike Miske and providing observations and commentary that you can find on his site, iLind.net, and Civil Beat as well.
Will Gov. Josh Green and Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi appear as witnesses for the defense in the racketeering trial of former Honolulu business owner Michael J. Miske Jr. and his two remaining co-defendants?
Well, we don’t know, but they are on the final list of 323 defense witnesses submitted to the court over the weekend. The list includes witnesses who are definitely expected to be called, as well as those who “may” be asked to appear.
(After this article was published, the Green administration contacted Civil Beat to say: “Governor Green has no connection to any aspect of this case. The Governor does not know why his name was included on the defense’s witness list and has not been contacted by either the prosecution or the defense regarding this matter.”)
The trial began Monday in Honolulu’s Federal District Court with jury selection, and is expected to last six to eight months.
The defendants’ witness list is heavy on Miske’s relatives and former employees, perhaps in the expectation they could eventually provide character references. Also on the list are those who may have witnessed or allegedly participated in crimes prosecutors attribute to Miske and his organization, along with law enforcement agents who took part in the years-long investigation.
The governor and the mayor aren’t the only high-profile people whose names appear among the several hundred other prospective witnesses.
Other names that stand out include Bruce Coppa, prominent lobbyist and former chief of staff for Gov. Neil Abercrombie; Kahu Curt Kekuna, retired senior pastor at Kawaiahao Church; Dustin Dawson, ILWU Longshore official; Tim Lyons, longtime lobbyist for several trade organizations, including the Hawaii Pest Control Association; and Nainoa Thompson, president of the Polynesia Voyaging society and east Honolulu resident.
The defense witness list also includes six of the seven people who wrote character reference letters in support of Miske between 2017 and 2019, apparently in expectation of his imminent indictment, which came in mid-2020. Miske’s attorneys then used the letters in an unsuccessful attempt to persuade a judge to release Miske on bond.
Read all of Civil Beat’s coverage on the Michael Miske case. Subscribe to our free Morning Beat newsletter to never miss an update.
Two of the seven character reference letters are alleged frauds, and Miske is charged with two counts of obstruction of justice stemming from his role in their creation. Both of those whose names were on the allegedly fraudulent letters are included on the defense witness list.
Prominent in her absence among prospective defense witnesses is Angela Vernadore, who in her reference letter described Miske as a “dear friend”, “a close family friend” for 10 years, and “someone who understands his heart inside and out. However, she does appear on the list of more than 900 potential government witnesses.
Vernadore appears in a chain of emails as one of the alleged fraudulent letters was being passed back and forth between several people, including Miske, before the signature of a Kamaaina Termite employee was added. The seven letters, including the two alleged frauds, were then submitted to Miske’s attorneys, who later filed them in court.
Several of these Varnadore emails appear on the exhibit list submitted by prosecutors on Friday.
Vernadore testified before a federal grand jury on July 14, 2022, when the grand jury was reviewing evidence that eventually led to the obstruction of justice charges against Miske. The content of her testimony has not been disclosed.
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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.