A lawyer for an engineering firm whose CEO is accused of bribing Honolulu’s prosecuting attorney pleaded not guilty on Friday to participating in the alleged scheme.

Sheri Tanaka arrives at US District Court.
Sheri Tanaka represented Mitsunaga and Associates in administrative, civil and criminal matters.  Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2022

Sheri Tanaka appeared in U.S. District Court for her arraignment. She did not respond to a request for comment.

She is charged alongside Dennis Mitsunaga, the chief executive of Mitsunaga and Associates who is accused of bribing former Honolulu prosecuting attorney Keith Kaneshiro. Mitsunaga and his subordinates allegedly sought the prosecution of a former firm employee, Laurel Mau, and paid tens of thousands of dollars to Kaneshiro’s reelection campaign to make it happen.

Kaneshiro’s office did charge Mau with theft but the case was dismissed by a state court judge.

The defendants were indicted on conspiracy, fraud and bribery charges. Kaneshiro, Mitsunaga and his associates have all pleaded not guilty.

According to the indictment, Tanaka met with Kaneshiro and a staff member in October 2012 to convince him to investigate and prosecute Mau. That same month, Tanaka donated $250 to Kaneshiro’s political campaign, state records show.

The parties met again in 2013, the indictment states. That same day, Mitsunaga and his wife each donated $4,000 to Kaneshiro’s campaign, and his associate Terri Otani gave $2,000, according to the indictment.

In 2014, Tanaka also spoke with Kaneshiro by phone several times, the indictment states, and allegedly gave him transcripts of Mau’s deposition in a civil case.

A trial is scheduled for March 21 in the courtroom of Chief District Judge J. Michael Seabright.

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