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Government 'screwed up' in Hawaii meth case

By Jennifer Sinco Kelleher / Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 5:46 p.m. HST, Feb 19, 2014

A federal prosecutor apologized in court Wednesday over sanctions for prosecutorial misconduct imposed by a judge during a major Hawaii meth-ring trial.

"You all know the government made mistakes in this case," Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Muehleck told the jury during his closing statement. "We screwed up."

He was referring to U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi previously ruling the government was "sloppy" and "tardy" in providing discovery materials to the defense. Kobayashi referred Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Loo to the federal Department of Justice's office of professional responsibility.

Six men went on trial in an alleged drug ring accused of trafficking hundreds of pounds of methamphetamine to Hawaii from California. Kobayashi last week acquitted two of them for a lack of evidence.

As Hawaii district U.S. Attorney Florence Nakakuni watched from the courtroom gallery, Muehleck said the prosecutorial mistakes were "professionally embarrassing" and "regrettable," but he insisted the evidence against the remaining four men is overwhelming.

"The evidence has shown there was a conspiracy," he said, recounting for jurors testimony from cooperating witnesses about how the defendants used encrypted BlackBerry devices and code words to move drugs to Hawaii and money back to California.

He said the men's code included "work" for drugs, "girls" for cocaine and "boys" for meth. They transported cash disguised as wrapped presents back to California, Muehleck said.

One witness, he said, testified he picked up an ukulele case full of cash from one of the defendants. One defendant, in a recorded conversation with a cooperating witness, discussed how cocaine was selling faster than meth and offered a kilogram of pure cocaine for $40,000, Muehleck said.

He said Walter Dominguez, of Carson, Calif., was the source of the drugs.

Lawyers for Dominguez, Fouina Toilolo, Aloalii Tootoo and Kaisa Tai were expected to deliver their closing statements Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning.

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