Legal battle over e-signatures pursued amid effort to impeach Honolulu prosecutor

Updated: Jan. 25, 2020 at 4:24 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Those wanting Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro impeached have taken their case to a federal judge.

Friday, attorney Keith Kiuchi filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, asking the court to weigh in on the city’s rejection of electronic signatures, based on the federal E-sign Act.

It’s the issue holding up the process to oust Kaneshiro, an effort that has been met with obstacles for Tracy Yoshimura.

Yoshimura, a local businessman filed two petitions, both exceeding the required number of signatures for impeachment. But the city’s corporation counsel office told Yoshimura that they ‘elected’ not to accept e-signatures, which Yoshimura says violates the federal law.

Tracy Yoshimura, organizer of the impeachment effort to oust Keith Kaneshiro
Tracy Yoshimura, organizer of the impeachment effort to oust Keith Kaneshiro(None)

According to Yoshimura’s motion, the city arbitrarily made that decision without a formal city rule or policy, or alternative procedure to the allow e-signatures.

“You’re going to be up against people that are trying to keep hold of power, so therefore, you’re going to get every single roadblock thrown in your way.” said Yoshimura’s pro bono attorney Keith Kiuchi, “You can’t get discouraged.”

Kaneshiro received a target letter from the Department of Justice in 2018 as part of the federal public corruption case that has already resulted in the conviction of his once, high ranking deputy prosecutor, Katherine Kealoha.

Kealoha was convicted of obstruction and conspiracy and later pleaded guilty to bank fraud and identity theft.

The same team of special prosecutors from San Diego have empaneled a new grand jury to hear evidence against Kaneshiro, who has been on taxpayer funded leave for more than a year.

Katherine Kealoha leaves court after guilty verdict (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Katherine Kealoha leaves court after guilty verdict (Image: Hawaii News Now)

His term ends on Dec. 31, but if he’s not impeached earlier, he will continue to collect his $177,000 annual salary.

“You’re voted into office with the public’s trust and I think once you have a letter like that, how can you continue to remain in office?” Kiuchi said.

Another attorney Michael Green says a target letter should always be taken seriously, “It’s not a recommendation of good conduct," Green continued, “It’s a come-to-Jesus moment, either get on one side or the other.”

And Kaneshiro isn’t the only one on the FBI’s radar in the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney. First Deputy Chasid Sapolu also went on leave after receiving a subject letter, which is one step below the target letter.

(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

The man who stepped in for Kaneshiro, Acting Prosecuting Attorney, Dwight Nadamoto, has already testified twice before the federal grand jury that will decide if his boss is indicted for criminal wrongdoing.

The office tried and failed twice to prosecute Yoshimura, accusing him of running illegal game rooms, but both attempts resulted in state judges scolding Kaneshiro’s deputies and one judge, even qualified it as prosecutorial misconduct.

Kiuchi says the effort will continue despite the obstacles, and the fact that Kaneshiro’s term ends this year, “The statement that we’re trying to make here is very important. that he should be impeached because of the actions”

Dwight Nadamoto arriving at the federal courthouse
Dwight Nadamoto arriving at the federal courthouse(None)

Attorney William McCorriston says Kaneshiro deserves the presumption of innocence, “Allegations are not facts.”

McCorriston is not representing Kaneshiro in this federal case over the e-signatures, but has represented him in previous matters, “They see the handwriting on the wall that the impeachment petitions are seeing no fruit.”

A hearing on the new motion for the injunction should be scheduled next week.

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