A state senator yesterday said his position in the Legislature was the reason his wife was indicted for allegedly stealing from a nonprofit organization she had led.
"My wife’s not guilty of stealing anything," said Sen. Fred Hemmings, a Republican who represents the 25th District (from Lanikai to Waimanalo).
"If she had not been the wife of a sitting, outspoken state senator, I don’t think this case would’ve seen the light of day," Hemmings said in a news conference at his state Capitol office.
Hawaii Attorney General Mark Bennett called Hemmings’ assertion "absolutely untrue," adding, "We treated this case like any other."
Lydia Hemmings, 53, was sentenced Wednesday to one year of probation and ordered to pay a $4,500 fine and perform 150 hours of community service.
She pleaded guilty in July to reduced charges of third-degree theft in a plea agreement. She had been accused of stealing from Blueprint for Change when she was its executive director. The state said she received double reimbursements for organization expenses and purchases between May 2005 and August 2006.
Hemmings had originally been charged with second-degree theft, but reached a plea agreement that reduced the charges to misdemeanors and assured she would not go to prison.
Fred Hemmings said his wife took the plea deal because they could not afford to fight the state in a trial. The case also took a toll on his wife, he said.
"It was my wife’s decision to put it behind her," he said. "It was tearing her apart emotionally."
Not one cent was taken from the organization, said Hemmings. "I believe my wife was indicted because the attorney general’s office didn’t want to look like it was doing favors to a Republican senator," he said.
Bennett countered, "Lydia Hemmings has prior felony convictions other than this case. An independent grand jury found probable cause to believe she committed these crimes. She signed a plea agreement that said, ‘I plead guilty because I’m guilty.’ She told the judge she was guilty. If she truly believed she was innocent, she should’ve gone to trial and let a jury decide."
In 1991, Lydia Hemmings was convicted of second-degree theft and four counts of second-degree forgery. Both offenses are Class C felonies.
Fred Hemmings said the criminal case against his wife was a factor in his decision to not seek re-election this year.