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Kaneshiro, Mitsunaga, co-defendants not guilty on all counts in corruption trial

GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Former Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro, front, and Hawaii businessman Dennis Mitsunaga celebrate after they were found not guilty in their corruption trial in U.S. District Court in Honolulu today.
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GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARADVERTISER.COM

Former Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro, front, and Hawaii businessman Dennis Mitsunaga celebrate after they were found not guilty in their corruption trial in U.S. District Court in Honolulu today.

GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Sheri Tanaka spoke to the media after she was found not guilty in a corruption trial in U.S. District Court in Honolulu today.
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GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARADVERTISER.COM

Sheri Tanaka spoke to the media after she was found not guilty in a corruption trial in U.S. District Court in Honolulu today.

GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Former Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro, front, and Hawaii businessman Dennis Mitsunaga celebrate after they were found not guilty in their corruption trial in U.S. District Court in Honolulu today.
GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARADVERTISER.COM
                                Sheri Tanaka spoke to the media after she was found not guilty in a corruption trial in U.S. District Court in Honolulu today.

Former Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro, prominent Hawaii businessman Dennis Mitsunaga and four Mitsu­naga & Associates executives were found not guilty on all counts in their pay-to-prosecute corruption trial in U.S. District Court in Honolulu today.

After less than two days of deliberation, the jury returned their verdict early this afternoon. After the verdicts were read in court, some of the defendants, family members and supporters broke down in tears. Some clapped out loud and hugged each other between sobs of relief.

Special Prosecutor Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Wheat declined comment after the verdict.

Speaking at the base of the courthouse steps, Kaneshiro, who was under investigation for eight years, condemned the U.S. Department of Justice’s probe, saying it needlessly tainted the good work of the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney while he was at the helm.

“Our office did a lot of good things for the city. And we get under this cloud of a federal investigation. Just look … the trial took two months. Two months. And a jury came back in a day and a half, what does that say about the government’s evidence and the investigation,” Kaneshiro said. “Not only me and our office but other citizens under this cloud of suspicion that we’re criminals, we bad and we didn’t do nothing wrong. We just did what we supposed to do.”

Kaneshiro implored reporters to file Freedom of Information Act requests and publish how much money the federal government is spending to send U.S. attorneys from San Diego to Hawaii to go after local citizens.

“How much money they spending? Not only this trial, but the whole years they’ve been investigating. These guys are…flying here, staying at our hotels…at the taxpayer’s expense,” said Kaneshiro

>> PHOTOS: Kaneshiro, Mitsunaga, co-defendants not guilty on all counts in corruption trial

Kaneshiro said it was too soon to decide whether to run for public office again. Mitsunaga, standing behind him, urged Kaneshiro to run, pledging his support.

The defendants were indicted in June 2022 for allegedly conspiring to charge a former Mitsunaga employee with felony theft for exposing the company to liability and keeping some money from jobs done on company time with company resources. They faced federal charges of conspiracy, honest serv­ices wire fraud and federal program bribery.

Mitsunaga, Kaneshiro, Terri Ann Otani, Aaron Shunichi Fujii, Chad Michael McDonald, and Sheri Jean Tanaka all had pleaded not guilty.

Last month, Mitsunaga had been ordered to remain jailed for the duration of the trial because of alleged witness tampering. He walked out of the court today with the rest of the defendants.

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