Suspects in gambling indictment appear in court for the first time

Five suspects accused of running illegal gambling machines made their first court appearance Thursday morning.

One by one, they filed in front of a judge, charged with numerous felonies. All pleaded not guilty and received trial dates.

It was exactly what defendant Tracy Yoshimura wanted. “I’ve asked to be given a day in court. That day has come,” he said. “We’re confident. We know we’ve done everything the right way. We’ve insisted, over and over, that we’ve done things the right way, so I’m looking forward to getting this over with.”

Yoshimura owns Prize World in Aiea Shopping Center, where a number of machines have been seized.

Thursday was also the defense attorneys’ first chance to see the charges leveled against their clients.

“The indictment that they finally turned over alleges misconduct between 2011 and 2013. This is the same period of time when the Honolulu Liquor Commission deemed that legal,” said Thomas Otake, the attorney for Gene Simeona. “If the prosecutor’s office is going to criminalize this type of conduct and say that it is illegal, our position is going to be that the laws are at the very least vague.”

Otake takes issue with exactly how the 414-count indictment was filed.

“This to me is a witch hunt,” he said. “You have good people running legitimate, legal businesses, and now they’re charged with felonies.”

The city prosecutor’s office declined to comment.

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