East Hawaii News

Matsumoto’s Attorney Accuses Judge of Conflict of Interest

February 19, 2013, 5:30 PM HST
* Updated February 19, 10:57 PM
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The attorney for Sean Matsumoto today asked a District Court judge to recuse herself from presiding over Matsumoto’s preliminary hearing because of a potential conflict of interest.

The motion by Public Defender Michael Ebesugawa came during Matsumoto’s second court appearance after he was charged in last week’s shotgun slaying of his girlfriend, Rhonda Ahu, and her mother, Elaine Ahu.

Ebesugawa told Judge Barbara Takase that he believed that Takase may have employed Rhonda Ahu as a housekeeper when Takase’s children were young.

He said that he did not have specific dates as to when the employment occurred, but said he believed it was not a “one-time thing” but an “ongoing matter.”

“Given the gravity of the case, it would be an appearance of a conflict,” Ebesugawa said.

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Takase denied Ebesugawa’s motion, saying that she did not know Rhonda Ahu, and the only time she recalled hiring a housekeeper was during a move to another house.

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“I have never employed a regular housekeeper,” she said. “It cannot be me (who employed her), so I’m not going to recuse myself.”

At that point Ebesugawa asked Takase for additional time to review evidence in the case, saying he hadn’t had time to study a recording received from the prosecution.

Matsumoto was reportedly on the telephone talking to a 911 operator when police arrived at the scene of the shooting on Leilani Street in Hilo late Feb. 11.

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Deputy Prosecutor Darien Nagata acknowledged that her office had turned over additional evidence to Ebesugawa this morning, and said she had no objection to a delay in the preliminary hearing.

After ensuring that Matsumoto was willing to waive his right to an immediate preliminary hearing, Takase postponed the proceeding until March 7 at 2 p.m.

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