Kenoi acquitted on all counts in theft trial
HILO, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - After deliberating for nearly five hours, jurors acquitted Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi's on all counts in his felony theft trial on Tuesday.
Jurors began deliberations on Monday afternoon, following closing arguments in a case that centered on Kenoi's use of a county credit card. Kenoi was charged with two counts of second-degree theft, two counts of third-degree theft, and making a false statement under oath.
"From the get go, we described the false accusations as flimsy. The trial established that that characterization was an understatement," Kenoi defense attorney Todd Eddins told reporters after the verdict came down. "This was an odious attempt to take down a once-in-a-generation good, decent man."
Meanwhile, state Attorney General Doug Chin said prosecutors "respect the verdict and thank the jurors for their service."
"The crime of theft requires proof a person intended to permanently deprive his victim of what he stole," Chin said, in s statement. "The prosecution argued that not paying back funds to the County of Hawaii until after the press caught him was proof of Mayor Kenoi's intent."
In the trial, the state had sought to show how Kenoi continued to violate the county's purchasing card policy despite repeated warnings by officials. Prosecutors argued Kenoi sought to live "beyond the law," and never intended to pay taxpayers back for unauthorized charges.
But Kenoi's defense team said the credit card charges the state has focused on in the case are primarily public -- not personal -- expenses because they helped the mayor more effectively serve his community.
Kenoi's attorneys have also said the mayor paid back hundreds of dollars worth of charges even though they were justified county expenses.
The criminal charges are based on 15 purchasing card transactions from 2011 to 2014 totaling just over $4,100.
Prosecutors say it took Kenoi anywhere from four months to more than two years to pay back 14 of the 15 charges. One still hasn't been reimbursed.
Kenoi was indicted in March following a year-long investigation. And opening statements in the trial started Oct. 17, kicking off one of the biggest trials in Big Island history. Kenoi is the first mayor in Hawaii since Honolulu Mayor Frank Fasi to defend himself against criminal charges while still in office.
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