Hawaii News Man’s conviction vacated in Aloun Farms case By Ken Kobayashi Oct. 5, 2011 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. A federal judge set aside Tuesday the conviction of a man who pleaded guilty to a felony charge related to the prosecution that the government dropped against Alec and Mike Sou of Aloun Farms. Chief U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway granted the request by Matee Chowsanitphon to vacate the conviction based on what his lawyer said was new evidence that surfaced during the Sous’ trial. Department of Justice civil rights prosecutors who were handling the cases did not oppose the request. "We’re very gratified that the judge granted the order and the Justice Department was big enough to acknowledge that mistakes were made," said Chowsanitphon’s lawyer, Rustam Barbee. "He can move on with his life and be conviction-free again." Chowsanitphon, 57, a California man who works at his wife’s 7-Eleven store near Los Angeles, was the middleman between Thai recruiters and Aloun Farms, which hired 44 Thai laborers in 2004. He pleaded guilty here in 2009 to not reporting visa fraud related to the Thai workers. Mollway placed him on house arrest for six months and probation for five years. She also ordered him to pay $48,000 in restitution to 24 of the workers. In setting aside the conviction and sentence, Mollway ordered the court clerk to return Chowsanitphon’s restitution payments that were held by the court. Mollway’s ruling culminates an offshoot of the stunning dismissal of the forced-labor charges against the Sou brothers on Aug. 4, the fourth day of what had been expected to be a weeks-long jury trial. About a week later, federal prosecutors signaled that Chowsanitphon’s conviction might also be in jeopardy when they asked Mollway to suspend his restitution payments because of "unanticipated developments" in the Sous’ case. Barbee asked that his client’s conviction be set aside. The defense lawyer said new evidence from the Sous’ trial included the workers’ contract that said they could return to Thailand and get a refund of their recruitment fees if they were not happy with their jobs. Federal prosecutors could not be reached for comment. Previous Story Hughes Corp. revives plan for Kakaako Next Story In Arizona bull run, danger, yes. liability, no.