Senator's wife pleads not guilty to felony theft

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - The wife of a veteran Hawaii legislator went before an Oahu judge and pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of theft Thursday.

Sen. Fred Hemmings calls the indictment against his wife "crazy."

A law maker and an accused law breaker head to a courtroom for her arraignment. Lydia Hemmings, former executive director of Blueprint for Change, is suspected of stealing money from the non-profit, which fights for the well-being of at-risk children.

"I'm quite perplexed, besides being hurt, by charges being filed against my wife," Sen. Hemmings said.

The Windward Oahu Republican acknowledges the organization's bookkeeping under his wife's leadership was "sloppy." But he says she resolved questions about the finances during an audit nearly three years ago.

"The books weren't kept that well, and there were some improprieties that were rectified when they went and did the audit," he said. "Now, now we get this indictment. It's crazy."

"Good morning, your honor, Howard Luke on behalf of Lydia Hemmings. She's present," the defendant's attorney said in court.

Last week, a grand jury indicted her on three counts of second-degree theft, a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. She pleads not guilty.

"Why the attorney general, a day before the statute of limitations runs out, would file these cases and the way it's been done has even been more insulting," the senator said.

The AG prosecuting the case would not say how much Lydia Hemmings is accused of stealing. But to be charged with second-degree theft, the alleged loss must be between $300 and $20,000 for each count.

"I stand with my wife," Fred Hemmings said. "I love her very much and we're going to fight this thing."

Lydia Hemmings is free after posting $5,000 bail. Her trial is tentatively set for July 13th.