The job of the Prosecuting Attorney is much more than a trial attorney. It is to be the leader that is responsible for the safety and security of Honolulu’s citizens. In addition to leading the office in complex cases, the Prosecuting Attorney’s responsibilities must include working with other branches of government to pass effective laws and to find new ways to reduce crime.
In the two years since voters granted me an opportunity to serve a third term, I have tapped into my experience to provide a strong new vision for our changing times. Now, I look forward to a full four-year term to guide these efforts through and to seek justice for all of Honolulu’s citizens.
With statistics showing the number of crimes against senior citizens rising sharply in each of the last five years – especially cases of financial fraud that can cruelly wipe out the assets from a lifetime of hard work and frugal living – I immediately added prosecutors to the Elder Abuse Justice Unit and made plans to further bolster the team with a financial investigator.
The Elder Abuse Justice Unit is a vertical prosecution team, meaning deputies handle each of their cases from the charging process through trial. Senior citizens who may be confused or intimidated by the legal system work with a single prosecutor who can answer their questions, ease their concerns and guide them through the process from start to finish.
Members of the unit offer presentations at senior centers and senior living facilities and also appear regularly at senior health fairs and expos to provide advice on how elders can recognize and protect themselves from scams. I personally give presentations at financial institutions to share suggestions and tips on spotting possible cases of fraud targeting trusting or helpless senior citizens.
In June 2011, our Elder Abuse Justice Unit were recognized for their efforts with a cover story in the senior-oriented “Generations” magazine.
As methamphetamine abuse continues unabated – destroying young lives, tearing families apart and fueling crime in our neighborhoods – I believe that we need to go beyond the usual pursuit and prosecution of dealers.
Deputies from our office attend neighborhood board meetings and urge residents to report drug traffic to police, then use nuisance abatement and asset forfeiture laws to shut down persistent ice houses. I have fought to preserve the intent of the innovative Drug Court program I introduced during my previous term which offers first-time drug offenders both supervision and treatment. And our office has re-established international cooperation and taken an ambitious initial step toward finding ways to strike at the very source of meth.
In October 2011, the Prosecutor’s Office co-sponsored the first Hawaii International Drug Trafficking Summit, which brought together drug prosecutors from around the world and the mainland, along with state, federal and county law enforcement officials from Hawaii. Over two days, they discussed the global impact of meth and began to lay the groundwork for possible future international legal agreements and promoted international cooperation to stem the manufacture and international distribution of meth.
Determined to seek justice for victims of spousal abuse, I have added prosecutors to the Domestic Violence Division and urged the state Judiciary and Legislature to provide more courtrooms and judges to deal with the overwhelming caseload.
An important part of our efforts will be the Honolulu Family Justice Center, the first facility of its kind in Hawaii. The Family Justice Center will follow the model of similar centers across the nation by bringing together service providers under one roof and offering comprehensive legal and social services to victims of domestic violence as well as sexual assault and elder abuse.
But the Honolulu Family Justice Center intends to go a step further. Because social services alone can’t solve the problem unless the cycle of domestic violence is broken, the Center plans to eventually provide long-term transitional housing. I believe this will help victims to truly break away from abusive spouses, further their education or obtain vocational skills, regain their self-esteem and make new lives for themselves.
FINANCIAL AND COMPUTER FRAUD
The office’s highly-regarded White Collar Crime Unit has had tremendous success in prosecuting a number of financial crimes and cybercrimes as well as raising awareness of the scope of the problem.
The cases have included identity theft, credit card fraud, embezzlement, even the first indictment in the state involving so-called “sexting.” The methods have been as simple as convincing an elderly woman to sign over power of attorney, and as complex as installing credit card information-gathering devices in gasoline pumps.
Most worrisome is the global reach of computer-savvy criminals via the Internet, which provides a gateway for countless schemes and access to millions of potential victims.
As in elder abuse, the White Collar Crime Unit makes efforts to educate the public through news conferences, appearances on radio and community television, as well as participating in informational briefings and providing testimony before state legislators.
Shortly after taking office, I introduced the state’s first courthouse dog program, one of about a dozen in the nation.
Pono, a trained service dog, provides a soothing presence that helps victims of crime – especially children – deal with the stress of talking to counselors and prosecutors about what happened to them.
Accurate testimony is vital to a case, and I strongly believe Pono can play an important role in obtaining difficult testimony as well as helping a frightened victim deliver it in court.
You probably saw the Hawaiian Humane Society’s video of the filthy conditions at a Waimanalo puppy mill. Maybe you also saw the Internet posting of dogs mauling a frightened female pig in a closed pen while several young men laughed and cheered.
As the disturbing images showed us, not all victims are human. Keith takes animal cruelty seriously because he finds such acts simply intolerable and because he knows that people who like to hurt animals often go on to hurt people as well.
He will continue to work with the Hawaiian Humane Society to find and prosecute those who mistreat animals for profit or entertainment.