After acquittal, Kenoi comeback likely but will take time, experts say

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Billy Kenoi's future in politics is a hot topic again after the Big Island mayor was acquitted on all counts in his felony theft trial.

Many political analysts say a conviction would have almost certainly be career ending. But with an acquittal, many believe he can make a comeback.

Defense attorney Victor Bakke says the not guilty verdict is not a surprise, and argues state prosecutors did a poor job at presenting their case against.

"They had the top law enforcement agency with their top attorneys and they went against a sitting mayor and they didn't just lose, they literally got their stuff handed to them," Bakke said..

He added the case had holes in it from the very beginning and the judge throwing out three of the eight charges was a telling sign that the defense had the upper hand early on.

"That, for a prosecutor, is the worst embarrassment. That is the biggest slap in the face that you can get, which is to present your case to a jury and then have the judge step in and say no," Bakke said.

Kenoi was considered a rising star in local politics before his indictment earlier this year, and many believed he was destined to be governor one day.

"He is arguably the most talented politician in the state right now," said HNN political analyst Colin Moore. "He's a tremendous public speaker. He has done a lot of good for the Big Island and he'll just have to find a way to get over this scandal. And that will take some time."

Big Island Mayor-elect Harry Kim, who was very critical of his one-time protege leading up to the trail, still thinks Kenoi's personality gives him a shot at political redemption.

"I definitely expect Billy to be very active whether it be in politics or other things. I guarantee you. He is a young man… everybody knows he is a very charismatic person," Kim said.

Meanwhile, Moore says although Kenoi was acquitted he still may need to ask for forgiveness if he ever wants a shot at the statewide office.

"It would be very difficult for him to come back from a conviction. The fact that he was acquitted, I think gives him an opportunity after a few years of more or less, taking an apology tour and explaining to people what happened, I think it does save his political career," Moore said.

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