Former beauty queen acquitted of forgery, theft charges - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Former beauty queen acquitted of forgery, theft charges

Lisa-Katherine Otsuka Lisa-Katherine Otsuka
Paul Mow Paul Mow

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A former Maui beauty queen accused of stealing money from an Oahu business was acquitted of all nine charges against her Tuesday.

Lisa-Katharine Otsuka was charged with eight counts of felony forgery and one count of felony theft. One juror told us there simply wasn't enough evidence to convict.

Moments from learning her fate, Lisa-Katharine Otsuka walked into the courtroom and gave her husband a hug. He was at her side every day of her forgery and theft trial.

A panel of seven women and five men deliberated for about a day before returning nine not-guilty verdicts.

"I had many plea offers and I refused every single one of them," Otsuka said after the verdicts came down. "I wanted my day in court and I fought for that. We suffered a lot to be here, but I stood on my innocence."

Otsuka was accused of stealing from former state Rep. Beverly Harbin's car service and repair business back in 1999. Prosecutors told jurors the defendant, who was a bookkeeper, wrote more than $12,000 in company checks to herself.

"We respect the decision by the jury this afternoon," Paul Mow, deputy prosecutor, said. "This has been a long 10 years in coming to this trial."

The former Maui beauty queen gained notoriety nearly a decade ago, when she refused to testify before an Oahu grand jury investigating then-Mayor Jeremy Harris' campaign spending.

She believes the forgery case against her was politically-motivated.

"First and foremost, there was probable cause in this case," Mow said. "The Oahu grand jury found that there was probable cause in the case."

Harbin, meanwhile, lost her House seat after her criminal convictions for passing bad checks surfaced in 2005.

Otsuka says she's considering filing a civil suit against the prosecutor's office.

"There was a lot that wasn't told and there was a lot that couldn't be said because of the way court proceeds," Otsuka said. "It's just been really hard and my family is waiting for me. I just really want to get home to them."

A separate theft trial, in which Otsuka was accused of stealing money from a Tahitian dance troupe, ended with a hung jury three years ago. Prosecutors haven't decided whether they will re-try her in that case.

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