Community Outreach Court goes on the road

Hawaii’s innovative Community Outreach Court (COC) has reached another milestone.  On Monday, December 18th, the court held a hearing at Wahiawa District Court.  It is the first time a COC hearing has been conducted at one of the rural courts instead of District Court in downtown Honolulu.  The goal since its inception in January, 2017 was to take COC into communities around Oahu so defendants would have easier access to the court and would be more likely to participate.

Community Outreach Court was designed to assist people facing multiple low-level “quality of life” offenses and alleviate the congestion in district courts created in part by those cases.

So far 58 defendants have participated in COC, 599 non-violent cases have been cleared, and 635.5 hours of community service have been performed.

Community Outreach Court clears hundreds of cases

December 5, 2017

Dozens of defendants facing hundreds of non-violent offenses have resolved the cases against them by attending to Community Outreach Court (COC), an innovative criminal justice initiative launched in early 2017.  Within ten months 47 defendants had gone through COC, 528 non-violent cases had been cleared, and 537 hours of community service had been performed.

Community Outreach Court was designed to assist people facing multiple low-level “quality of life” offenses and alleviate the congestion in district courts created in part by those cases.

BACKGROUND

Hawaii has the highest per capita rate of homelessness in the nation.  As the homeless population has grown, the number of misdemeanor cases involving defendants with limited resources has increased dramatically.  Those cases bogged down courts.  They utilized a disproportionate amount of resources.  In addition, defendants often committed the same offenses repeatedly because they were not offered rehabilitation services.

The State of Hawaii Judiciary, the Honolulu Department of the Prosecuting Attorney (Prosecuting Attorney), and the Hawaii Office of the Public Defender (Public Defender) responded by creating a steering committee to find a way to assist people committing the offenses and to ease the increased burden on the district courts.  That committee developed Community Outreach Court and thanks to a federal grant, the court held its first hearing in January 2017.

PROCESS

The Prosecuting Attorney and the Public Defender review all potential COC cases.  Only defendants with non-violent offenses are eligible.  Those offenses include violations of park rules and regulations, driving without a license, smoking in prohibited places, drinking liquor in public, and more.  Participants are sentenced to community service instead of jail time or fines.  Sentences are agreed to in advance by the prosecuting attorney and the public defender.  All participants are represented by a Deputy Public Defender and are assisted by a social worker/advocate.

Advocates from the Institute for Human Services and the CHOW Project attend COC hearings and meet with participants following the hearings to assist with housing, employment, and other needed services. These advocates work with other social service agencies such as the Economic Development Center of Parents and Children Together, the Oahu Jail Diversion Program, Catholic Charities, Waikiki Health, Kalihi Palama Health Center to address a myriad of participants’ needs.  The agencies and advocates equip participants with tools they need to move forward in their lives.

FUTURE

During the 2017 legislative session, lawmakers approved $455,768 for each of the next two fiscal years for COC. Governor David Ige signed the funding appropriation in June 2017.  The program has received additional funding from the Department of Justice. The Center for Court Innovation assisted in implementation.

The goal is to eventually take the court and its treatment team to various communities around Oahu.  But for now, COC is held at the Honolulu District Court building twice per month.

 

Office manager sentenced for embezzling

The Office of the Prosecuting Attorney was successful in convicting a Kāne‘ohe woman of embezzling more than $1.3 million from the landscaping company where she worked.  Tamila A. Alcoran was sentenced to a maximum term of 20 years in prison by state Circuit Court Judge Paul Wong in July.

Alcoran was indicted by an O’ahu grand jury in December 2016 on 311 counts including Theft in the First Degree, Identity Theft in the First Degree, Computer Fraud in the First Degree, Theft in the Second Degree, Identity Theft in the Second Degree, and Forgery in the Second Degree.  In April 2017 she pleaded no contest to more than 300 of those charges.  The case was presented by Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Chris Van Marter.

In 2008, Alcoran was hired as the Office Manager of Greg Boyer Hawaiian Landscapes Inc. That same year, Alcoran embarked on a series of sophisticated and prolonged embezzlement schemes against the company. Alcoran used the owner’s personal information to obtain numerous fraudulent credit cards and thereafter used those cards to obtain hundreds of thousands of dollars in merchandise and services. Alcoran then diverted funds from the company bank account to pay off the credit card charges. In addition to the credit card scheme, Alcoran also accessed the owner’s online investment account, sold off the stock, and thereafter used the funds for expenses that were of a purely personal nature. Alcoran also forged company checks and used those checks to pay the rent of her Kāne‘ohe residence. Further still, Alcoran forged checks and made them payable to a “dummy corporation” that she created and that “existed only on paper”. Further yet, she forged checks and made them payable to herself. Alcoran also forged checks to drain the personal and business equity accounts of the owner and his wife. Lastly, Alcoran applied for about a dozen fraudulent loans using the personal information of the owner and thereby obtained, and later spent, hundreds of thousands of dollars on expenses that were of a purely personal nature. In all, during the period from 2008 through 2014, Alcoran stole $1.3 million dollars from the company and the company’s owner. As a result, the company went bankrupt, the owner’s credit was ruined, and the owner was sued by the lenders when the fraudulent loans were not repaid.

Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro said, “It represents one of the worst cases of embezzlement against a small business that’s been prosecuted in recent memory. The Prosecutor’s Office takes embezzlement cases against small businesses very seriously, especially when the case involves the misuse of technology. In 2012, the Prosecutor’s Office re-wrote Hawai‘i’s computer crime laws to strengthen the penalties for those who use technology to commit crimes.”

The indictment and ensuing conviction was the result of a lengthy investigation conducted by HPD’s Financial Crimes Detail.

Prosecutor’s Office successful in conviction of Tamila Alcoran – Media Release (PDF)
Local Office Manager Arrested For Identity Theft –  Media Release (PDF)  December 2016

Kaneshiro names new First Deputy Prosecuting Attorney

December 1, 2017

Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro announced today Chasid Sapolu has been appointed the next First Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for the City and County of Honolulu.

Sapolu has worked as a Deputy Prosecutor since 2011.  He began in the Misdemeanor Traffic Division and has since worked in the Trials Division, the Screening and Intake Division, and most recently in the Career Criminal Unit where he handled a variety of cases including homicides.  He has successfully prosecuted many repeat offenders and dangerous individuals.

“Chasid has very strong legal and administrative skills,” Kaneshiro said while announcing Sapolu’s appointment.  “He is an excellent trial attorney and a respected leader with the deputies and staff.  His temperament, demeanor and judgment will greatly assist in my responsibilities as Prosecuting Attorney.”

Sapolu is a product of Nanakuli High School and a graduate of the University of Hawaii’s William S. Richardson School of Law.

Sapolu’s appointment is effective Friday, December 1, 2017.  He replaces First Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Christopher Young who has taken a job in the state Attorney General’s Office as Administrator of the Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center.

Kaneshiro names new First Deputy Prosecuting Attorney

Men’s March 10/12/2017

“Gingerbread Man” Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison

March 20, 2017

The self-proclaimed “Gingerbread Man” is running from the law no more. Amery Kahale-Sugimura was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Monday March 13, 2017. The sentence was handed down by the Honorable Dean E. Ochiai, First Circuit Judge.

On Jan. 11, 2017 Kahale-Sugimura pleaded guilty to 20 charges in five separate cases dating back to 2013.

The charges include two separate counts of Promoting a Dangerous Drug in the First Degree, a Class-A felony. In addition, Kahale-Sugimura pleaded guilty to four separate auto theft charges; other drug violations; firearm violations; first-degree burglary; third-degree assault; first-degree terroristic threatening; first-degree unauthorized entry into a dwelling; resisting arrest and driving without a license.

Judge Ochiai also ordered Kahale-Sugimura to pay nearly $20,000 in restitution.

Kahale-Sugimura committed many of the crimes listed above after posting bail for various charges.

Prior to the cases that started in 2013 Kahale-Sugimura had criminal convictions dating back to the 1990s. Those convictions include robbery, burglary, auto theft, forgery, and theft and drug violations.

Kahale-Sugimura labeled himself as the “Gingerbread Man” for his perceived ability to elude police. A Specialized Services Division team ended that run Feb. 16, 2017 when officers arrested Kahale-Sugimura in Waianae.

The “Gingerbread Man” reference comes from a fairy tale that had its origins in 1875 with many variations since. In the tale a gingerbread cake made in the shape of a man by a couple with no children comes to life and escapes the home after being fully baked.

To everyone he met as he ran the fairy-tale gingerbread man bragged that no one could catch him. That ended when he encountered a clever fox which outsmarted him and promptly ate him for lunch.

“Gingerbread Man” Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison – Media Release (PDF)

Okinawan Students Visit Prosecutor’s Office

Mar. 3, 2017

Honolulu City Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro hosted 25 students from several high schools in Okinawa on Feb. 22, 2017. They were in Hawaii as part of the Hawaii-Okinawa High School Student Exchange Program.

Kaneshiro explained to the students the process of investigating and prosecuting a reported crime, particularly when the victims are visitors to Honolulu. He also held a brief question-and-answer session.

Visiting with the students were Etsuo Arakaki and Megumu Ishimine of the Board of Education, Okinawan Prefectural Government. Also traveling with the group was Daisuke Ameki, an English teacher at Kaiho High School and Takako Maruyama and English teacher at Chinen High School.

Jane Serikaku, Executive Director of the Hawaii United Okinawa Association, coordinated the event with officials from the prosecutor’s office.

The Hawaii-Okinawa High School Student Exchange Program started in 1990. It was established by the Legislature which partnered with the state Department of Education and the Hawaii United Okinawa Association.

The program’s goals include providing students an opportunity to learn about diverse cultures of other countries, fostering and sustaining good relationships between foreign countries and Hawaii and fostering a sense of “internationalism” in today’s youth.

Students stay with a host student and his or her family for about two weeks. They attend school, participate in high school events and visit cultural and historical sites.

Hawaii students will be going to Okinawa in June.

Okinawan Students Visit Prosecutor’s Office – Media Release (PDF)

Community Outreach Court is Now Open

Jan. 26, 2017

There was a successful soft launch Thursday Jan. 26, 2017 of a joint effort by the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney, the State Office of the Public Defender, Oahu Office, and the Hawaii Judiciary that aims to resolve dozens of pending cases for individuals while at the same time providing those individuals with needed services.

The court cases, which were deemed minor or so-called nuisance cases, were settled not with the usual fines or jail time but with community service instead. These outcomes are agreed to ahead of time by the prosecuting attorney and the public defender.

Four homeless individuals who collectively had more than 50 pending citations and/or warrants appeared before The Honorable Clarence A. Pacarro.

Following the hearing the individuals were teamed with counselors and service providers to address their varying humanitarian needs. Representatives from the Economic Development Center of Parents and Children Together and the Oahu Jail Diversion Program were on hand to provide services.

Community Outreach Court holds people accountable, reduces backlogs in the courts and the public defender’s office and provides an opportunity for individuals to receive services to help them move forward in their lives.

Community Outreach Court is the result of more than a year of planning by Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro, Oahu Public Defender Jack Tonaki and Hawaii Supreme Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald.

This project is funded in part by a grant from the Department of Justice. The Center for Court Innovation assisted in implementation. The ultimate goal is to bring the court and the treatment team into the community to resolve pending cases and provide services. For now all parties will meet at the Honolulu District Court building twice per month.

Community Outreach Court is Now Open – Media Release (PDF)