City prosecutor's challenger on ballot: 'I'm not a good 'ol boy'

Race for city prosecutor heats up with new candidate
Keith Kaneshiro (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Keith Kaneshiro (Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In the race for city prosecutor, incumbent Keith Kaneshiro is being challenged by attorney Anosh Yaqoob.

The biggest distinction between the two candidates is their experience level. This is Kaneshiro's second term as city prosecutor. He's one of only three people who've held the office since it became an elected position in 1981. Yaqoob has his own private practice and has been a criminal defense attorney since he graduated from the University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of Law eight years ago.

"I'm not a good ol' boy. I'm not an insider. I'm not somebody who has been there for 30 years. I'm not entrenched in government," said Yaqoob, who hopes running as an unknown will be an advantage.

"I'm not bringing to this office an agenda already -- that's not my reason for running.  My reason for running is to give voters the chance to have somebody different, to have someone else in office," the 33-year-old explained.

While Yaqoob, who once clerked at the Maui County Prosecutors' Office, doesn't have any prosecutorial priorities -- he has identified concerns.

"I think the sit-lie ban is unconstitutional. If elected, I would refuse to enforce it. To me it's like a modern-day Jim Crow law. I think we're criminalizing being poor," explained Yaqoob.

Kaneshiro has served for more than three decades in the criminal justice system -- as both a prosecutor and also the state's Director of Public Safety.

"I'm fighting for the office and what our mission is. I truly believe in what our mission is to promote and ensure public safety and order through effective and just prosecution," Kaneshiro explained as his reason for running for re-election.

He heralds the opening of the new Honolulu Justice Family Center -- secure, transitional housing for domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking victims who are preparing to testify in court -- as one of his greatest successes in office.

Kaneshiro also considers his pursuit of illegal gaming a victory -- despite the fact the biggest gambling case in Hawai'i's history failed twice and cannot be tried again.

"The goal is not really to put somebody in prison, the goal is to stop criminal activity and to prevent future criminal activity. And what you saw when that was done was you saw criminal activity and those gambling houses shut down. And other people voluntarily removing their gaming machines," said Kaneshiro.

Kaneshiro says he doesn't measure success by convictions, but by how his office has dispenses justice -- which is why he says he's bothered there have been no consequences for Christopher Deedy. In 2011, the State Department Diplomatic Security Special Agent was in Hawai'i and while off duty, shot and killed, Kollin Elderts. Deedy has been tried twice. The first trial ended with a hung jury on murder charges, which a second jury acquitted him for -- but deadlocked on manslaughter.

"It's on appeal. The Supreme Court will decide whether we can prosecute and if they decide, we will prosecut. And people will say why do we keep going on and on and we keep going on because that's our job -- our job is to prosecute. How do you tell a parent when their child is killed that we're not going to pursue it when we can pursue it?" said Kaneshiro.

Kaneshiro has made headlines recently for his repeated appearance before a federal grand jury in an ongoing investigation of public corruption involving his deputy prosecutor Katherine Kealoha, who is still employed with his office.

"Anybody can make allegations. Nothing has been proven and I stand behind her 100%," said Kaneshiro in defense of keeping Kealoha on staff.

Candidates for Honolulu Prosecutor must be registered O'ahu voters, who are also licensed attorneys in good standing with the Hawai'i Supreme Court and have been practicing law for at least five years.

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