Halawa guard arrested in prison parking lot, accused of dealing meth

Published: Jan. 13, 2014 at 5:01 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 14, 2014 at 9:50 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Corrections Officer at the Halawa prison appeared in federal court Monday afternoon facing several charges of dealing meth at the prison.  James "Kimo" Sanders III has been indicted for methamphetamine trafficking and bribery.  He plead not guilty in District Court this afternoon.

FBI agents arrested Sanders in the parking lot of the Halawa prison Sunday morning.  He was indicted by a Federal Grand Jury on January 8 for two counts of distributing methamphetamine, one count of conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, and one count of bribery.

Sanders is charged with distributing at least five grams of meth on November 15, 2013 and at least 50 grams of meth a week later on November 22, 2013. According to the indictment, he's also accused of "soliciting, accepting, and agreeing to accept something of value with the intent of being influenced and rewarded".

The 31-year-old from Kailua is a former amateur MMA fighter who was hired as an Adult Corrections Officer in January 2012.

Department of Public Safety Director Ted Sakai released this statement regarding the federal arrest:

We are working diligently with the United States Attorney, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Honolulu Police Department investigating and weeding out corrupt employees in our prisons.  It is our top priority to bring the individuals who commit these crimes to justice.  The people who facilitate illegal acts in our prisons do a disservice to the rest of our employees, the majority whom are good, hardworking people. This kind of crime seriously undermines our ability to keep our prisons and, therefore, the public safe and we will not tolerate it.  We appreciate all the hard work and cooperation from our Federal, State and City and County partners as we continue to ensure the safety of our prisons and the public.

DPS officials reiterate Sanders is innocent until proven guilty.

During Monday's arraignment, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Nammar successfully petitioned the judge to remove Sanders from a desk job at the prison.  He will remain employed with DPS, but according to the prosecutor "someone who admitted to smuggling meth and tobacco shouldn't be allowed to work at a prison facility." 

Sanders has been granted a court-appointed attorney.  Shanlyn Park is currently representing him.

Sanders will be released to his grandmother on a $50,000 unsecured bond.  The conditions of his bail include wearing a GPS montioring device at all time, observing a nightly curfew and staying on O'ahu. 

If convicted of either conspiracy or distribution of 50 grams or more of methamphetamine, Sanders faces up to life in prison, with a mandatory minimum term of ten years in prison, and a fine of up to $10 million. The maximum penalty for the smaller distribution charge is 40 years in prison, a mandatory minimum term of five years, and a fine of $5 million. The maximum penalty for the bribery charge is ten years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

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