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Tam pleads no contest to campaign spending charges

  • PHOTO BY DENNIS ODA/DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM
    Former City Councilman Rod Tam pleaded no contest in District Court today to eight new misdemeanor charges of campaign spending violations.
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Former Honolulu City Councilman Rod Tam pleaded no contest at Honolulu District Court this morning to eight new misdemeanor charges of violating campaign spending laws.

Tam’s attorney Nelson Goo said his client is not contesting the charges that were filed on Monday because he wanted to avoid litigation, a felony charge and a prosecution of members of his campaign.

"Mr. Tam is taking the blame for this because he is the head of the campaign," Goo said.

Part-time District Judge Randal Shintani scheduled the sentencing hearing on the case for Aug. 16. 

He also postponed until that time a sentencing hearing on Tam’s theft and falsifying documents case involving overcharging the city for meals when he was a member of the Council.

Tam pleaded guilty to the 26 misdemeanor and petty misdemeanor charges in that case in November.

Shintani said he was postponing the sentencing hearing for both cases because he wanted to see a presentence report on the new charges.

The misdemeanor charges carry up to a year in jail.

Tam entered the no contest pleas to charges that he used campaign funds for personal use, filed a false report claiming he had a meal with a volunteer, and failed to report campaign donations.

The offenses occurred from 2008 to 2010.

Judges usually find defendants guilty based on their no contest pleas.

But Goo said he will be asking Shintani to hold off accepting the guilty and no contest pleas, which would pave the way for the dismissal of both cases.

Deputy Attorney General Lori Wada said she will be opposing that request and asking that Tam serve time in jail.

"Not only is he violating the public’s trust as a city Council member, but now he’s violating the trust of his people supporting him and stealing from his own campaign fund," she said.

About 30 of Tam’s relatives and supporters were in court for the hearing. 

Goo spoke in behalf of his client following the hearing.

During the proceedings, Tam told Shintani he was pleading no contest to the eight charges. 

Tam spent 32 years in elective office as a member of a neighborhood board, the state Legislature and the City Council.

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