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Grand jury witness in corruption probe details ties between former prosecutor, engineering firm

Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 5:54 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A former deputy city prosecutor has become an important witness for the federal team investigating public corruption in Honolulu.

Attorney Jacob Delaplane left the federal courthouse last month after a second appearance before a grand jury. Delaplane worked directly under Katherine Kealoha, who is now in a federal prison.

Keith Kaneshiro, then the city’s top prosecutor, hired him in 2014.

Delaplane said the grand jury is hearing testimony and evidence against Kaneshiro.

“Whether Mr. Kaneshiro committed a federal crime when his office prosecuted and investigated the Laurel Mau case,” Delaplane said.

Laurel Mau was charged with felony theft after she filed a civil lawsuit against her former employer, Mitsunaga & Associates, an engineering and architectural firm with political ties.

Attorney Sheri Tanaka with clients Lois Mitsunaga and Chan Mitsunaga as they leave the federal...
Attorney Sheri Tanaka with clients Lois Mitsunaga and Chan Mitsunaga as they leave the federal courthouse earlier this month(None)

Delaplane was tasked with the Mau case, but said he had no idea at the time the firm’s employees, family and friends, had donated tens of thousands of dollars to Kaneshiro’s campaign.

Attorney Megan Kau said federal authorities are investigating whether Kaneshiro “used his position to prosecute someone that was the enemy of his friends.”

Those campaign donors have also been ordered to testify before the grand jury.

Attorney Sheri Tanaka with Mitsunaga & Associates employees Steven Wong and Glenn Okino leave...
Attorney Sheri Tanaka with Mitsunaga & Associates employees Steven Wong and Glenn Okino leave the federal courthouse(None)

“If any of the witnesses who were involved in providing testimony to support those charges (against Mau), if they lied, then they should absolutely be held accountable too,” said Delaplane.

Delaplane said Sheri Tanaka, the attorney who represents the employees of Mitsunaga and Associates, generated the evidence against the former employee.

“Providing the office with declarations to support the charge as well as transcripts and company records and all of those other things supporting the charge, she was the one providing that,” he said.

The felony theft accusation was first made to the Honolulu Police Department by another employee of Mitsunaga & Associates but HPD didn’t find enough supporting evidence or witnesses to pursue a criminal case.

Attorney Sheri Tanaka
Attorney Sheri Tanaka(None)

Months later, Tanaka wrote a letter to the prosecutor’s office and that launched the investigation in Kaneshiro’s office.

Kau described that as highly unusual and suspect.

“We have two different systems for a reason,” Kau said.

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