After nearly 2 years on leave, deputy city prosecutor returns to work

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Updated: Sep. 1, 2020 at 8:35 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Almost two years after he received a subject letter from the US Department of Justice and went on leave, deputy city Prosecutor Chasid Sapolu is back at work.

Sapolu was the second in command when he decided to go leave during the federal investigation.

He’s now being assigned to the juvenile offender unit.

Sapolu returned to the office Tuesday and said in a statement through his attorney:

“I have been, and will continue to be, fully cooperative with investigative authorities. As I return to work, I continue to believe that the system I am dedicated to serving will find that I have done nothing wrong.”

Hawaii News Now cameras recorded Sapolu at the federal grand jury to testify several times before the subject letter was sent in December 2018.

His boss, Honolulu Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro, is the target of the criminal probe and was forced to go on paid leave a month later.

The federal case is tied to the convictions of former high-ranking deputy Prosecutor Katherine Kealoha and her husband Louis, the ex-police chief. They were found guilty of obstruction and conspiracy in June 2019.

Both also later pleaded guilty to bank fraud.

Kaneshiro remains on paid leave until the end of the year, when his term expires.

Acting city Prosecuting Attorney Dwight Nadamoto defended his decision to allow Sapolu to return. “He has been on the sideline for a long time,” he said. Now more than ever we can use all the help we can get.”

Nadamoto lost in the primary election so he will also leave at the end of the year.

In the running to lead the office: Former federal Prosecutor Steve Alm and former deputy Prosecutor Megan Kau. Both disagree with the decision.

“He did get a subject letter, which is a serious matter,” said Alm. “This will not help the prosecutor’s office in the effort to restore trust.”

Kau went a step further, questioning the timing of the decision.

“Just one month after the primary election, Mr. Nadamoto doesn’t answer to anybody so he can bring Chasid Sapolu back into the office without having to explain it to anybody,” she said.

“But if he had made it through the primary and if he was looking at fighting in the general election, I’m sure he wouldn’t have brought back Chasid Saopul because he’d have to answer to the people. That’s a problem because he’s perpetuating the dishonesty and the deceit in that office.”

Legal expert Ken Lawson, of the University of Hawaii law school, agreed that it’s a dangerous move.

“That gives him access to the office, access to witnesses and records.”

Victor Bakke, another legal expert, criticized the placement of Sapolu into the juvenile offender unit.

“Juvenile division, which is completely sealed off from the public, so he’ll be appearing in cases in courtrooms where the public is not allowed, the media is not allowed, the records are sealed, they’re not put on the public website. So he’s completely closed off and free to do whatever he wants,” Bakke said.

Hawaii News Now asked the spokesman of the office, Brooks Baehr, if the federal prosecutors provided information that Sapolu was no longer a subject of the corruption case. That question was not answered.

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