Women say city prosecutor retaliated against them for testifying in corruption probe

City Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro is the target of an ongoing federal investigation. (Image:...
City Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro is the target of an ongoing federal investigation. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Published: Feb. 12, 2019 at 10:35 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Two women who testified against their boss — city Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro — as part of an ongoing federal probe claim they’re now being retaliated against and face disciplinary action.

The women, who asked that their names not be used, say they were both grand jury witnesses in the federal public corruption case that’s targeting Kaneshiro after receiving subpoenas compelling them to appear.

One woman, who works at the domestic violence safe house run by the city Prosecutor’s Office, says she was summoned after other employees turned in surveillance video from the safe house’s administrative office.

“They asked me who was in the video, what was happening,” she told Hawaii News Now.

The video appears to show workers shredding documents. Also in the video, safe house Director Libby Lee Hobbs is seen placing a video of paper over the camera lens to obscure the image.

The woman testified on Nov. 15, 2018.

Afterward, she said, special assistant to the city prosecuting attorney Roger Lau called her into the office.

“He asked me how it went, and who I spoke to, and what were they asking me," she said. “I was like, I don’t really want to share everything,” the woman said.

After that exchange, she claims, the retaliation started.

“Ever since then, they would nitpick everything I do," she said.

And now the woman is being disciplined — for not following orders.

She was given a letter that said, “Further incidents of a similar nature will result in more, severe action including termination.”

And that letter is signed by Keith Kaneshiro.

[Read more: Taxpayers to cover legal fees for embattled city prosecutor to fight impeachment]

“They even told me they’re watching me on the cameras for my entire shift, just to let me know they have eyes everywhere,” the woman said, adding that the situation has left her feeling intimidated. She also believes they were sending a message to other employees who could possibly testify against the boss.

The other woman also called to the grand jury, testified three times last year. Our cameras were there as she left the grand jury room on one of those occasions, Special Assistant Roger Lau was leading the way out of the courthouse.

Days ago, she was also given a disciplinary letter signed by Kaneshiro.

The claims of retaliation come as Kaneshiro is facing impeachment proceedings. He has declined to step down after receiving a target letter from the U.S. Department of Justice, informing him he’s the focus of a federal probe.

Attorney Megan Kau, a former prosecutor and legal expert, says the women’s stories are exactly why Kaneshiro needs to be on administrative leave.

“Once he sent those disciplinary notices to those employees, signed them, and said you are hereby put on notice, I think it’s moved over to tampering with a witness or obstruction of justice,” she said.

Kau added that situation also puts the city and taxpayers at risk.

“It opens that office up to wrongful termination, whistleblower claims, a multitude of lawsuits that can be brought against him and the city,” she said.

The only agency that can force Kaneshiro to leave office, according to the charter, is the state Attorney General’s office.

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