UNITED STATES NEWS

Judge in a bribery case against Honolulu’s former top prosecutor is suddenly recusing himself

Jan 24, 2024, 12:49 PM

HONOLULU (AP) — A month before the start of a bribery trial against Honolulu’s former top prosecutor, the judge who has been presiding over the case since 2022 is unexpectedly recusing himself.

U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright issued an order Wednesday morning rescuing himself in the case against former Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro.

Jury selection was scheduled to begin next month in one of Hawaii’s most anticipated criminal trials.

Seabright has presided over the case since a U.S. grand jury indicted Kaneshiro and four others in 2022, alleging that employees of an engineering and architectural firm bribed the prosecutor with campaign donations in exchange for Kaneshiro’s prosecution of a former company employee.

Seabright’s order doesn’t explain his recusal.

All five face have pleaded not guilty to count of conspiracy to defraud the City and County of Honolulu and one count of conspiracy to intimidate the former employee to prevent her from exercising her rights by filing a civil rights lawsuit against the firm. The first count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, the second count 10 years.

The indictment alleges that Mitsunaga & Associates employees, along with an attorney listed as an unindicted co-conspirator, contributed more than $45,000 to Kaneshiro’s re-election campaigns between October 2012 and October 2016.

They allegedly got family members, business partners, employees and contractors to donate as well to get around individual campaign contribution limits.

The former employee targeted with prosecution had been a project architect at Mitsunaga & Associates for 15 years when she was fired without explanation on the same day she expressed disagreement with claims the CEO made against her, court documents said.

Kaneshiro’s office prosecuted the architect, whom court documents identify only as L.J.M., but a judge dismissed the case in 2017 for lack of probable cause.

Kaneshiro took a leave of absence as Honolulu’s prosecuting attorney in March 2019 after he became a target of the federal investigation. He didn’t run for re-election in 2020, and his term expired in January 2021.

Retired Federal Defender Alexander Silvert said a judge stepping away from a case like this is highly unusual, especially given how long Seabright has been on it.

“This is a high publicity case for Hawaii, given that it was city and county’s lead prosecutor,” Silvert said.

The unexpected move could mean there was a conflict of interest that Seabright recently learned about or there is a personal issue, Seabright said.

There was no immediate response to an email from The Associated Press sent to the court clerk and Seabright’s courtroom manager asking if the judge could comment on his recusal.

United States News

FILE - Deborah Moody, an administrative clerk at the Alaska Division of Elections office in Anchora...

Associated Press

Alaska election officials to recalculate signatures for ranked vote repeal measure after court order

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A state court judge on Friday disqualified numerous booklets used to gather signatures for an initiative that aims to repeal Alaska’s ranked choice voting system and gave elections officials a deadline to determine if the measure still had sufficient signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The decision by Superior Court […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

UN approves more transparent procedures for people and entities to get off its sanctions lists

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved more transparent procedures Friday for the hundreds of individuals, companies and other entities who are subject to U.N. sanctions and want to get off the blacklists. The resolution, co-sponsored by Malta and the United States, also authorizes the establishment of a new informal working […]

6 hours ago

FILE - Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee, D-Texas, speaks during a House Judiciary Committee meeting, Dec. 13...

Associated Press

Longtime US Rep Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, who had pancreatic cancer, has died

Longtime U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, who helped lead federal efforts to protect women from domestic violence and recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday, has died. She was 74. Lillie Conley, her chief of staff, confirmed Friday night that Jackson Lee, who had pancreatic cancer, had died. The Democrat had represented her Houston-based […]

6 hours ago

Stools line the bar at Elwood's Liquor and Tap on Thursday, July 18, 2024 in Milwaukee, Wis. This w...

Associated Press

Outside the RNC, small Milwaukee businesses and their regulars tried to salvage a sluggish week

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Jay Nelson was standing outside the convenience store he manages in downtown Milwaukee when one of his regular customers walked by on her daily stroll around the neighborhood. “I’ve been telling people to come and buy even just a bottle of wine,” she said, stretching out her arms. “I hope it helps.” […]

6 hours ago

Descendants of Nelson Bell, brothers Milford Fonza, front left, and Elmer Fonza, front right, surro...

Associated Press

In a California gold rush town, some Black families are fighting for land taken from their ancestors

COLOMA, Calif. (AP) — In a tiny town where the California gold rush began, Black families are seeking restitution for land that was taken from their ancestors to make way for a state park now frequented by fourth graders learning about the state’s history. Their efforts in Coloma, a town of around 300 people that’s […]

6 hours ago

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich stands listening to the verdict in a glass cage of a ...

Associated Press

Russia convicts US journalist of spying in a trial widely seen as politically motivated

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich was convicted Friday of espionage and sentenced to 16 years in a maximum-security prison on charges that his employer and the U.S. government have rejected as fabricated.

6 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Sanderson Ford

3 storylines to get you revved up for the 2024 Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals training camp is just a couple weeks away starting on July 25, and Sanderson Ford is revved up and ready to go.

...

Sanderson Ford

3 new rides for 3 new road trips in Arizona

It's time for the Sanderson Ford Memorial Day sale with the Mighty Fine 69 Anniversary, as Sanderson Ford turned 69 years old in May.

...

DISC Desert Institute for Spine Care

Sciatica pain is treatable but surgery may be required

Sciatica pain is one of the most common ailments a person can face, and if not taken seriously, it could become one of the most harmful.

Judge in a bribery case against Honolulu’s former top prosecutor is suddenly recusing himself