Honolulu prosecutor criticized for prosecuting woman who accused major campaign donor of sex discrimination
A Hawaii judge has blasted Honolulu prosecutors for bringing charges against a woman who’d previously filed a sex discrimination suit against a major donor.
Judge Karen Nakasone dismissed all charges against Laurel Mau, an architect who worked for Mitsunaga & Associates, an influential architectural and engineering firm that had been one of the top donors to the campaigns of Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro, with about $40,000 being donated by employees of the company from 2012–2016.
Mitsunaga & Associates claimed that Mau had stolen money from the company by doing independent projects when she was supposed to be working for the company, and was telling clients for those side projects that she was representing Mitsunaga & Associates.
Kaneshiro’s office charged Mau with four counts of second-degree theft, and Mau would have faced up to five years in prison on each count if she’de been convicted.
But Nakasone threw out the case and criticized prosecutors for relying on the word of the architectural firm, and not police.
“Ordinarily, law enforcement agencies, such as (the Honolulu Police Department) could have and should have conducted the investigation, but that was not done in this case,” Nakasone said, according to City Beat. “In fact, no law enforcement agencies, such as HPD or the Department of the Attorney General or any other state or federal law enforcement, was involved.”
Nakasone also pointed out that Mau was charged with no grand jury proceeding or preliminary hearing.
Mau had previously sued Mitsunaga & Associates for sexual discrimination and lost. The firm countersued her and won $1.
Kaneshiro has said he will appeal Nakasone’s ruling.
The chief prosecutor has become scandal plagued due to a federal investigation involving one of his chief prosecutors and the former Honolulu chief of police. Prosecutor Katherine Kealoha is under investigation due to both ticket fixing allegations and charges that she may have attempted to frame her uncle for a mailbox theft. She runs the career criminal unit that goes after repeat offenders and people on parole who are accused of violating the terms of their release.
Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha, Katherine Kealoha’s husband, has already resigned due to the investigation.
Federal officials are now looking at how Kaneshiro reacted as the ticket fixing allegations surfaced, and whether he used his office to help cover for the wrongdoing of his subordinate.