Former Councilman Tam pleads no contest to new criminal charges - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Former Councilman Tam pleads no contest to new criminal charges

Rod Tam Rod Tam

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Former Honolulu City Councilmember Rod Tam's sentencing in his city-paid personal meals scandal was postponed Tuesday, after he pleaded no contest to a new set of criminal charges.

Tam was facing up to a year in jail for charging the city about $15,000 for meals that had nothing to do with city business.

He has already pleaded guilty to stealing taxpayer money to cover his personal meals. On Tuesday, former City Councilman Rod Tam appeared at Honolulu District Court, bearing the weight of eight new criminal charges stemming from a state Campaign Spending Commission investigation.

"Not only is he violating the public's trust as a city councilmember, but now he's violating the trust of his people supporting him and stealing from his own campaign fund," Lori Wada, deputy attorney general, said.

State prosecutors allege that Tam made personal purchases at places like Sam's Club and Times Supermarket using campaign money, sought reimbursement from his campaign for a meal at Kabuki Restaurant that no one can substantiate, and failed to report two campaign contributions until well past the deadline.

Even though his lawyer maintains the purchases were legit and the late reporting was due to a technical issue, Tam will not fight the charges.

"What is your plea?" Randal Shintani, District Court judge, asked.

"No contest," the defendant replied.

"We pled no contest to avoid litigation, to avoid a felony charge, and to avoid prosecution of other members of the campaign, who are actually very innocent in all of this," Nelson Goo, defense attorney, said.

Tam earlier pleaded guilty to 26 counts of theft and falsifying government records relating to his meals scandal. The state and defense wanted to proceed with sentencing in both cases Tuesday.

"Today, we have many supporters in the gallery including my client's mother and father, both of whom are very medically challenged," Goo told the judge. "It would be a hardship to come back."

The judge denied the request, citing the need for a pre-sentence investigation for the new case, and set the next hearing for August 16th.

The defense will ask for a deferral, which is a chance to keep the misdemeanor and petty misdemeanor crimes off his record. The state will seek jail time.

"I think jail is absolutely appropriate," Wada said. "We can not accept or tolerate this kind of violation of the public's trust for years."

Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

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