HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Circuit Court judge has yet to determine whether Honolulu prosecutors purposely misled a grand jury to secure the largest indictment in the state's history. The high-profile alleged gambling case could be thrown out without any chance charges could be refiled, if Judge Randal Lee rules there was prosecutorial misconduct.
The city's crackdown on arcades resulted in hundreds of machines being seized, nine people being arrested, and a 414-count indictment.
A Circuit Court judge heard testimony from deputy prosecutor Jake Delaplane on Wednesday, who denied that any misconduct took place and defended his office's actions.
Delaplane was grilled on the stand by defense attorneys who say prosecutors misrepresented evidence and didn't use a qualified expert witness when they presented their case to a grand jury.
The grand jury indictment from earlier this year came after a federal judge ruled people who use Products Direct Sweepstakes machines are gambling. The ruling stemmed from a civil lawsuit against the city after police seized machines from game rooms across Oahu.
"Our clients have been run out of business," defense attorney Victor Bakke said. "They've spent huge amounts of money defending themselves both in federal court and now in state court. The stress of having a prison sentence hanging over your head when you hear the type of shenanigans that go on from a prosecutor who says, 'I presented a case to grand jury, yet I failed to read the entire investigative report.' That is just so unacceptable and unethical. It raises to the level of egregious misconduct if there ever was one."
Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro and Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha were both named in the civil suit. Kealoha's wife, Katherine, was previously handling the gambling allegations case, but she's on indefinite personal leave and did not show up in court on Wednesday.
"If the prosecutor responsible or the prosecutors responsible for organizing the Grand Jury and getting a 414 count indictment refuse to come to court to defend what they did, then this case should be dismissed with prejudice," defense attorney Myles Breiner said. "If it is we certainly will move for compensation for all the pain and suffering each of these individuals have experienced."
Katherine Kealoha has been ordered to appear in court for the next hearing, which is scheduled for Friday. She will have to explain her absence for Wednesday's hearing to the judge and is also expected to testify.
In addition to a civil lawsuit, defense attorney's say if the case is thrown out, the defendants will make an effort to reclaim their seized gaming machines and will re-open their arcades.