HILO » Several Big Island judges have recused themselves from the trial of Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi, who is facing theft charges.
Hilo Circuit Court judges Greg Nakamura and Glenn Hera, Kona Circuit Court Judge Melvin Fujino and 3rd Circuit Chief Judge Ronald Ibarra are among those who filed certificates of recusal Thursday. The judges’ actions have left Kona family Judge Aley Auna Jr., who is on vacation, as the only full-time judge on the island available to hear the case, The Hawaii Tribune Herald reported.
If Auna also recuses himself, then Mark Recktenwald, the state chief justice of the Supreme Court, would appoint a judge from another circuit court, said Ibarra.
The reasons a judge would excuse himself from a case is “an individual thing under the (judicial) rules of conduct,” Ibarra said. The judges’ “impartiality might reasonably be questioned” if they were to handle the case, he said.
Nakamura arraigned Kenoi in court on Wednesday, when the mayor pleaded not guilty to charges of theft, tampering with public records and making a false statement under oath. The charges stem from the alleged misuse of his county-issued credit card from 2011-2015.
Although Kenoi used the card to pay a nearly $900 tab at a Honolulu bar and to buy a surfboard, bicycle and other personal items, those transactions were not part of the indictment.
Kenoi reimbursed the county for $22,292 in personal charges between January 2009 and March 2015. He later paid back an additional $9,500.
The felony theft charges are punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Todd Eddins, Kenoi’s attorney, said he had “no comment at this time.”
The Star-Advertiser contributed to this report.