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Court upholds charges against Pflueger

By Ken Kobayashi


The state appeals court upheld manslaughter charges Thursday against retired car dealer James Pflueger over the deaths of seven people killed when the Ka Loko dam breached on Kauai five years ago.

But his lawyers have the option of delaying any trial by asking the Hawaii Supreme Court to review the decision.

Pflueger, 85, is accused of filling the dam's safety valve for Ka Loko reservoir and disregarding the risk that the dam might break and kill people.

A three-judge panel of the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed Kauai Circuit Judge Randal Valenciano's decision last year that denied Pflueger's request to dismiss the charges.

Pflueger appealed, suspending the criminal proceedings pending the final outcome of the appeal.

Pflueger's lawyers will have 90 days from when the appeals court files its formal order to decide on whether to seek a review.

David Minkin, one of Pflueger's lawyers, said they were "very disappointed" and will determine in the next few months whether to ask for the high court review.

Pflueger's attorneys argued that the case should be thrown out because it violated his rights against double jeopardy and because the evidence presented to the Kauai grand jury did not support the manslaughter case.

The appeals court disagreed.

The former and current attorneys general said they were pleased.

"We believed that there was more than sufficient evidence to support the indictment and the charge was not barred by double jeopardy, and Judge Valenciano ruled correctly," said former Attorney General Mark Bennett, who handled the case.

Attorney General David Louie said they "intend to continue to vigorously prosecute this case."

The seven were killed when the dam breached and sent torrents of water downstream on March 14, 2006.

Pflueger also faces federal tax charges in an unrelated case. The federal trial is scheduled for next year.

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