Hawaii Island mayor found not guilty on card-misuse charges

AP News
Posted: Nov 01, 2016 9:04 PM

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii Island Mayor Billy Kenoi has been found not guilty on all counts for his alleged misuse of his county-issued purchasing card in a trial that questioned whether spending hundreds of dollars on whiskey and pineapple juice is a legitimate government expense.

A jury on Hawaii Island acquitted Kenoi on Tuesday of four charges of theft for purchases including whiskey, Heineken and other items for official business and one charge of making a false statement under oath.

"From the get-go we described the false accusations as flimsy," said Todd Eddins, attorney for Kenoi. "The trial established that that characterization was an understatement. This was an odious attempt to take down a once-in-a-generation good-guy leader."

Prosecutors during the felony theft trial said Kenoi didn't provide the county with receipts for 15 purchases. They said Kenoi reimbursed the county for some of the expenses, but he did so only months later after someone from the media filed a request seeking copies of the mayor's county card purchasing reports.

"The crime of theft requires proof a person intended to permanently deprive his victim of what he stole," said Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin, in a statement. "The prosecution argued that not paying back funds to the county of Hawaii until after the press caught him was proof of Mayor Kenoi's intent. We respect the verdict and thank the jurors for their service."

During the trial, Eddins said Kenoi bought alcohol at various events to show his appreciation for people and build relationships.

In March, a grand jury indicted Kenoi on two counts of felony theft and other charges.

The indictment came after Chin launched an investigation when Kenoi acknowledged using his county-issued credit card to cover personal expenses, including nearly $900 at a Honolulu hostess bar — where female employees typically sit with patrons and serve them drinks — in 2013.

Last week, Judge Dexter Del Rosario tossed out three charges for tampering with government records, citing insufficient evidence.


Follow Cathy Bussewitz on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cbussewitz .