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Two acquitted, one convicted for meth trafficking

Two others are acquitted; jurors are undecided on other charges

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 10:54 a.m. HST, Mar 08, 2014

After deliberating for about two weeks in what's been described as Hawaii's biggest crystal meth­am­pheta­mine case, jurors convicted a California man of a conspiracy to distribute 400 pounds of the drug to the islands.

The jury Friday acquitted two of his co-defendants, including Kaisa Tai, who walked out of the Hono­lulu federal courthouse a free man after three years in custody.

"Freedom is always something you should hold on to dearly," Tai said as he walked away from the courthouse.

The second defendant acquitted, Aloalii Tootoo, was already free on bond. "I give God all the praise," he said.

Jurors weren't able to reach a unanimous verdict on the main conspiracy charge for Fouina Toilolo. But he was found not guilty of a charge involving meth possession with intent to distribute in July 2009. Prosecutors said they intend to retry Toilolo on the charge the jury couldn't decide on.

Six men originally went on trial, but two of them were later acquitted because the judge ruled there was a lack of evidence. The case ran into other significant prosecutorial setbacks, including the judge ruling that prosecutors were "sloppy" and "tardy" in providing discovery materials to the defense. U.S. District Judge Leslie Koba­ya­shi also referred Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Loo to the federal Department of Justice's office of professional responsibility.

Prosecutors said the men received meth from Walter Dominguez of Carson, Calif., who was found guilty of five counts, including the conspiracy charge. He was found not guilty of various other charges, but jurors couldn't agree on one count involving meth possession with intent to distribute in March 2012.

Dominguez is scheduled to be sentenced in September. Defense attorney Richard Hamar said he expects he'll get a life sentence.

"The failure of a federal jury to reach a unanimous verdict of guilt in what has been called the largest crystal meth case in the history of Hawaii reflects more of the disturbing underbelly" of problems within the federal justice system in Hawaii, said Hamar, who is based in San Diego and Mexico.

Jurors had indicated Thursday that they were deadlocked, but the judge asked them to press on. On Friday morning they requested transcripts of one witness's testimony, and a juror asked to speak privately with the judge, highlighting the stress the jurors were under. Some of them live on neighbor islands and flew home on weekends.

Then they sent another note, saying again that they were deadlocked. That's when Koba­ya­shi allowed the partial verdict.

"I'm delighted," said Tootoo's Hono­lulu attorney, Lynn Pana­ga­kos. "I'm really impressed with the jury."

The case originally involved 19 defendants. Some have pleaded guilty. Four are scheduled to go to trial later.

During the more than two-months-long trial, cooperating witnesses testified about how the men used encrypted emails and code words to transport drugs to Hawaii and cash back to Cali­for­nia.

In his closing argument, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Muehleck said the ring wasn't very sophisticated or complicated, but involved methods such as sending batches of cash back to Cali­for­nia disguised as presents and using connections with airline employees.

Before the men went on trial, Sifatutupu Fuamatu, a former Delta Air Lines ramp agent, pleaded guilty to conspiracy in the ring, admitting she used her security credentials to transport hundreds of thousands of dollars in drug money from Hawaii to Cali­for­nia. She said Dominguez paid her $6,000 for each trip.

Prosecutors declined comment on the verdict.

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HanabataDays wrote:
400 pounds! Purely by coincidence, that's also the weight of the devils that will squat on their chests throughout eternity as they try desperately to gasp more of those sulfur-laden fumes.
on March 8,2014 | 01:25AM
hikine wrote:
So I guess the distribution of meth will resume after this decision? If you have 400 pounds of meth do you actually believe they weren't going distribute them? Hopefully none of the juror's family, friends or acquaintances will ever be involve in meth.
on March 8,2014 | 01:54AM
vizzn808 wrote:
the sloppiness of it all is no one ever saw 400lbs., not even the prosecuters
on March 8,2014 | 04:35AM
niimi wrote:
Were jurors discovered and paid off? That's my conspiracy theory.
on March 8,2014 | 06:49AM
Grimbold wrote:
@niimi:..or afraid for later retributions if they convict, especially women. The system would be better if the jurors would remain anonymous could never be seen by the defendants or the attorneys and seated behind a 2-way mirror. A relative of mine was approached by a defendant after the trial and very afraid. In that case where the jurors voted unanimously guilty, but the judge set aside the verdict and the accused walked free.
on March 8,2014 | 07:17AM
vizzn808 wrote:
yeah sure they paid off jurors but couldn't afford private attorneys and used court appointed public defenders. you have to follow the case from the beginning where the judge scolded the government for all it's illegal violations
on March 8,2014 | 07:51AM
soundofreason wrote:
I think we should allow them to prove that they weren't going to distribute it. Put it in the cells with them and if they can consume it themselves....and live.....so be it.
on March 8,2014 | 08:40AM
Sandybeach wrote:
This case made national news. Identified poor work by the government. More oversight and help should be given to prosecutors. The government seems to have had a good case.
on March 8,2014 | 06:03AM
cartwright wrote:
Only the Mexican importer gets jail. The whole Samoan Connection walks.
on March 8,2014 | 06:34AM
Grimbold wrote:
Because jurors were afraid of them and their clans.
on March 8,2014 | 07:19AM
vizzn808 wrote:
the judge herself dismissed 2 defendants earlier in this case citing they weren't even slightly connected. the jury isn't stupid. there was nothing to hold these two defendants guilty. it has nothing to do with fear.
on March 8,2014 | 07:54AM
Mike174 wrote:
Poor work by prosecutors! Can't you get it right? You wouldn't have a vested interest, would you?
on March 8,2014 | 06:40AM
cojef wrote:
Sure looks like the prosecutorial staff mishandled the conduct of the case and caused the acquittal of parties that intended to enrich themselves at the expense youths of Hawaii. Bad mana all the way around. It is rarely that trial judges comment on the handling of a case by a prosecutor's staff. A simple case turned into a morass of problems for the prosecution due to ineptness.
on March 8,2014 | 07:17AM
Grimbold wrote:
The jury system sucks! Some jurors are afraid of retribution if they convict a criminal. And many intelligent ones are sifted out . The verdicts should be valid if they are 11 to 1 . There is always one odd-ball who makes no sense.
on March 8,2014 | 07:10AM
vizzn808 wrote:
watch 12 Angry Men so you can see the odd ball who did make sense
on March 8,2014 | 02:36PM
makiki123 wrote:
The second defendant acquitted, Aloalii Tootoo, was already free on bond. "I give God all the praise," he said. LOL! Yeah...I live a dirty life but the praise goes to God. What is it with people who are supposedly God-fearing, but it's obvious they are have no fear of God because they keeping doing bad things. What a bunch of crock.
on March 8,2014 | 07:42AM
kailuabred wrote:
I doubt the sky fairy really cared about letting you walk.
on March 8,2014 | 11:03AM
Tanuki wrote:
Never trust anyone who invokes the name of God for personal gain.
on March 8,2014 | 08:46AM
pakeheat wrote:
They will sow what they reap, will be looking behind their backs or from above, LOL.
on March 8,2014 | 08:57AM
COlohe1 wrote:
First CO legalaizes pakalolo, Coming soon...HI to legalize meth.
on March 8,2014 | 09:15AM
kailuabred wrote:
Comparing the two is ridiculous.
on March 8,2014 | 11:03AM
saveparadise wrote:
The law protects the guilty more times than it protects the innocent. Insanity continues..............
on March 8,2014 | 09:46AM
kailuabred wrote:
You should go live in Russia. They seem to have a justice system to your liking.
on March 8,2014 | 11:04AM
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