A Circuit Court judge says nine defendants in a case involving sweepstakes machines that were allegedly used for gambling can be re-indicted.
Judge Randall Lee denied the defense’s motion to reconsider Friday, but the ruling wasn’t without criticism for city prosecutors.
Lee said the original indictment was flawed in several ways because it was based on hearsay and testimony that lacked evidence.
He chastised former lead prosecutor Katherine Kealoha but said prosecutors will be allowed to get another chance.
“Given the nature, the amount of potential charges in this particular case, the court finds that this case warrants consideration,” Lee said. “There is a serious question whether or not these machines are legal or illegal, but clearly gambling is illegal in the state of Hawaii and therefore given the interest that the state has to prevent such illegal activity, given the magnitude of the case and yet balancing that against the rights of the defendant to be precluded from further harassment or further arrest or embarrassment, the court is going to order that again.”
The judge said Kealoha as well as the current lead prosecutor in the case, Jacob Delaplane, are no longer allowed to handle the case as they were in over their heads.
“We’re disappointed that the prosecution was not sanctioned,” said Myles Breiner, who represents defendant Tracy Yoshimura. “We’re disappointed that a message was not clearly sent to Mr. (Keith) Kanehsiro. Enough. Enough of this ineptitude. Enough of having this prosecutorial misconduct of various assistance to his office.”
At one point, prosecutors had filed more than 400 counts of illegal gambling and money laundering charges against nine Oahu residents, who were arrested after police raided a number of “game rooms” across the island.
All charges were dropped last month at the request of Delaplane, who wrote in the document, “I have identified potential deficiencies that, in the interest of justice, should be cured by seeking a new indictment.”
“We said look, we found some potential deficiencies that could’ve resulted in the grand jury being misled or being confused and that they made improper inferences because of mistakes that we had made,” said prosecutor Kaina Awong. “We wanted to give the people, again in the form of the grand jury, that opportunity to decide whether or not an indictment was appropriate based on accurate facts.”
Awong says prosecutors will need to review the case before deciding what to do next.
“I’m not going to speculate as to what we’re gonna do, if we’re going to re-indict, who we may re-indict or if they’re going to add charges or defendants,” he said. “I can say it was the intent of the office to cure the potential deficiencies that we noticed in the original indictment, to go forward and to correct those.”