UPDATE: State VS Kenoi: The Verdict Is In
UPDATE: Nov. 1. 1:20 p.m.
They jury’s verdict was just announced: Mayor Billy Kenoi has been found not guilty on all counts.
In the packed Hilo circuit courtroom, the jury of seven women and five men for The State vs. William P. Kenoi unanimously reached a verdict on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016, just after 1 p.m.
The jury deliberated for one day before rendering its verdict:
Count 1: theft in the second degree: Not guilty
Count 2: theft in the second degree: Not guilty
Count 3: theft in the third degree: Not guilty
Count 4: theft in the third degree: Not guilty
Count 8: False Swearing: Not guilty
The Honolulu Circuit Court Judge Dexter Del Rosario thanked the jury, the lawyers, the mayor and Hawai‘i Island community.
Following the reading of the verdict, the courtroom filled with tears of joy and sighs of relief.
Kenoi hugged his family, friends, defense team and his supporters as he made is way through the courtroom, as he exited surrounded by his family.
“The crime of theft requires proof a person intended to permanently deprive his victim of what he stole.” Attorney General Doug Chin said. “The prosecution argued that not paying back funds to the County of Hawai‘i until after the press caught him was proof of Mayor Kenoi’s intent. We respect the verdict and thank the jurors for their service.”
On March 23, 2016, a Hawai‘i Island grand jury indicted Mayor Kenoi for two counts of felony theft, two additional counts of misdemeanor theft, three counts of tampering with a government record and one count of false swearing. The charges arose from alleged conduct taking place from 2011 through 2015 while Mayor Kenoi was in office.
The court dismissed three misdemeanor counts for tampering with a government record based on insufficient evidence.
ORIGINAL POST: Nov. 1 10 a.m.
The State of Hawai‘i vs. William P. Kenoi wrapped with closing arguments on Monday, Oct. 31, in Hilo Circuit Court, turning the case over to the jury to deliberate and come to a verdict.
Judge Dexter D. Rosario began by instructing the jury on the laws applying to this case: emphasizing their individual responsibilities and duties; the importance of following the facts, as well as the law, even when it is contrary to their personal opinions; adding that Kenoi is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The jury will decide whether Kenoi made an innocent error or a deliberate act to permanently deprive the County of Hawai‘i of these funds.
Kenoi is charged with four counts of theft, two which are felony counts, and one count false swearing.
The charges and transactions are as follows:
Count 1: theft in the second degree
There are nine transactions in question. Among these transactions is Sansei: $422.62 charged on 5/11/11—paid back March 1, 2012, 294 days between charge and reimbursement.
Count 2: theft in the second degree
Clyde’s Gallery: $600 charged Jan. 18, 2013—paid back March 31, 2015, 802 days to pay-back
Count 3: theft in the third degree
Volcano House: $200 charged on May 11, 2011—not repaid at this time.
Count 4: theft in the third degree
Longs Drugs: Sam Choy Poke Contest and Tahiti Fete $125 on March 17, 2013, and $201 on March 25, 2013—paid back March 31, 2015, 736 days between charge and repayment.
Tommy Bahamas: $170 charged on Nov. 16, 2014—reimbursed 135 days later.
Count 8: False Swearing
On June 30, 2014, Kenoi signed an affidavit for the Volcano House charge, swearing that he hosted a lunch for visitors from the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
Takata argued that Kenoi made a false statement under oath and by doing so intentionally he was guilty of false swearing.
Defense Attorney Todd Eddins argued that there was no other way to classify these guests because they were indeed a part of Mayor Kenoi’s connection to the organization.
Due to insufficient evidence, Judge Rosario dismissed three charges alleging that Kenoi was withholding information and was part of a coverup.
The threshold for theft in the second degree is $300 or more; the threshold for theft in the third degree is $100.
To be found guilty, there are four elements the prosecution must prove.
- Mayor Kenoi obtained and exerted power over the county’s property.
- Mayor Kenoi consciously made these acts with the intent to deprive.
- Mayor Kenoi was aware he spent over $300 on county credit card (pCard).
- The transaction exceeded $300.
During the closing arguments, state Deputy Attorney General Kevin Takata argued that Kenoi and Kenoi alone decided what was a county expense or personal charge.
“Mayor Kenoi lived above the law,” stated Takata. He argued that Kenoi used unauthorized county funds with the intent to deprive the county of the funds permanently.
Takata added that Kenoi admitted that three of the charges were personal: Chart House, Hapuna Prince and the bag purchased at Target.
According to the state, Mayor Kenoi is guilty of all counts based on the transactions presented by the prosecution.
Takata argued that Kenoi only reimbursed the county after being “busted” by the media.
Takata claimed Kenoi had opportunities to pay these charges back to the county sooner, pointing out that Kenoi made reimbursements of other charges on five occasions, but, according to Takata, Kenoi chose not to pay them, therefore, “theft was committed.”
Takata closed with the argument that Kenoi was living above that law and that it is up to the jury to reclaim the power, emphasizing that accomplice to political corruption is indifference.
According to the defense, Kenoi believed he was allowed to make decisions on how to use his more than $90,000, county council-approved entertainment budget and that when Kenoi was told not to make personal charges on the county pCcard, he stopped. Eddins cited Hawai‘i County Code 16 2-98, arguing alcohol is permitted.”
Eddins classified the prosecution’s case against Kenoi as “misleading and unfair,” as well as, “outrageous, deplorable and shameless,” and “when, where and alcohol.”
Eddins added that the state had made the mayor, who is also known as the “Iron Mayor,” look like a “boozy guy” in an attempt to smear and distort his true colors. Eddins said that in the video with the media in Honolulu, Kenoi is merely being humble and taking responsibility for his mistakes and that Takata is twisting the context and meaning of his words over four years later.
In the video, Kenoi is heard say, “I never intended to shift the burden to taxpayers.”
Eddins argued that Mayor Kenoi believed he was within the law and never intentionally did anything wrong, arguing that Kenoi is determined to make Hawai‘i Island a good place to live, work and raise a family.
For Kenoi it was, “never about money,” Eddins stated, adding that Kenoi was not motivated by financial need and that if the arguments by the state were true, there would be more than $4,000 in questionable charges. You’d see an attempt to hide and cover up and that there would be evidence of Kenoi refusing to pay, Eddins said.
Eddins reiterated the defense’s argument that the media requests served as a marker for Kenoi and his team to do reviews and make reimbursements. Eddins reminded the jurors that Kenoi left blank checks to repay personal expenses at any time.
“You don’t intend to steal permanently if there are blank checks,” stated Eddins, adding that Mayor Kenoi, “loves this island. A Big Island heart-and-soul guy.”
“We don’t criminalize mistakes,” argued Eddins.
Following closing arguments, the jury went into deliberation after 1 p.m. on Monday, Oct.31.
The jury only has to find Kenoi guilty of one or more of these transactions in question in order for him to be convicted.
The jury resumes deliberations at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 1.
Check back for the verdict.