Honolulu Police Department Maj. Carlton S. Nishimura, a commanding officer, pleaded not guilty yesterday in federal court, where he stood accused of extortion involving an illegal gambling house in Honolulu.
A federal grand jury indicted Nishimura Thursday on charges of extortion, attempting to tamper with a witness and making false statements.
Nishimura, 55, of Waianae, surrendered himself to federal authorities yesterday morning and appeared in U.S. District Court. He was released on conditions set by U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin Chang.
Nishimura is the highest-ranking HPD officer to be charged with a crime in recent years. There have been a series of arrests of officers and charges ranging from drunken driving and theft to overtime fraud.
"A criminal indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt," said a joint statement by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI and Honolulu police Chief Louis Kealoha. "The defendant is entitled to a fair trail at which time the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."
Marc Tilker, chairman of the Police Commission, said he found out about the federal investigation Thursday night.
"Any time any officer is involved in something like this, I think it’s a terrible thing," he said. "We’re going to see where this investigation goes."
Though the major has not been convicted, an investigation of an officer "blemishes all the officers," he said.
[ View PDF ] Indictment: United States vs. Carlton Nishimura
[ View PDF ] FBI Press Release
According to the indictment unsealed yesterday, Nishimura was a captain at the time of the extortion, which allegedly took place between April 2004 and March 2006.
He is accused of accepting money in exchange for performing or not performing official police acts in District 1, which stretches from Chinatown to Moiliili. The indictment does not indicate how much money was involved.
Nishimura allegedly conspired with a woman identified in the indictment as D.I. to obtain money from another person who was engaged in the operation of an illegal game room.
On Feb. 26, 2009, Nishimura tried to persuade the woman to make false statements to FBI agents investigating the enforcement of laws by Nishimura and other Honolulu police officers at illegal game rooms in the city, the document said.
Believing that the FBI would question the woman, Nishimura tried to persuade her to tell FBI agents that he never received any money, that her relationship with him was limited to assisting him in introducing an undercover police officer into illegal game rooms in the city and that there was no exchange of money for services he "provided as a Honolulu police officer to an illegal game room operator," the document said.
The document said Nishimura had received money, which D.I. carried to him regularly in 2004, 2005 and 2006 in exchange for services.
Nishimura also lied to federal agents on Dec. 15, saying he never spoke with the woman about the federal investigation, the indictment said.
Nishimura, who is assigned to the department’s Legislative Liaison Office, has been stripped of his police powers and assigned a desk job during the investigation, said Honolulu police Capt. Kent Harada.
He said the department will look into a separate administrative investigation after the criminal case is completed.
Nishimura also served as major of the department’s Criminal Investigation Division, which handles major and violent crimes, during his 30-year career with the department.
Nishimura’s trial is set for April 19 before Senior U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor.