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Thursday, March 24, 2011
March 24, 2011 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 1:33 PM :: 7494 Views :: Hawaii County News, Agriculture, Kauai County News, DHHL, Honolulu County News, Democratic Party, Hawaii State Government, Republican Party

SB218: House Health Committee may save St Francis Hospitals from Closure

Surprise: Gaming bill passes House Committees

House GOP: Democrats Support Gambling Instead of School Supplies for Children

Attorney General demands $170M from Online Travel Companies

Kapolei Shopping Center lease to generate $140M for DHHL

Hawaii Rifle Association annual meeting Sunday

Hilo, Kapaa top list of Drunkest Cities in America

Hawaii: The Worst State to Shop Online

Rep Fontaine supports SB 52 Registration of Sex Offenders

Slom: Gambling & Tax bills bargaining chips for GE Tax hike

Bad Bills Still Alive as Legislation Cross Houses

DoE killing 180 day law with help of Senate Education Committee

A bill advanced by the Senate Education Committee yesterday would push back implementation of the instructional hours law to the 2015-2016 school year….

At a Senate hearing yesterday, schools Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi estimated that keeping students in classrooms longer would cost an additional $45 million to $55 million for the next school year.

(This is exactly the same maneuver the criminal DoE used when claiming they had to implement Furlough Fridays on Instructional Days)

Parent Melanie Bailey, who helped write the instructional hours law, said her research showed that some schools were already meeting the minimums and that others would have to make slight adjustments to do so next school year.

"When we put these recommendations in place, we knew that this year we would not have any more money," Bailey said. "We've had a year to look at this. I think we need to see some facts and not just take their (the DOE's) word for it."

The proposal to delay implementation of the law comes as education officials are considering bleak options for meeting potential budget reductions that could top $110 million for the coming two fiscal years.

CB: Mandatory School Time in Hawaii? We Can't Afford It

RELATED: Washington Monument Gambit

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Star-Advertiser: Instant Runoff Needed to Prevent Republicans from Winning Elections

The bill unquestionably would apply to special elections held to fill vacancies in mid-term, such as last December’s election following the resignation by Todd Apo from the City Council. Of 14 candidates on the ballot, Tom Berg was elected to succeed Apo with only 18.5 percent of the vote — 2,308 of the 12,534 cast. The system that allowed that to happen is badly flawed….

State Rep. Della Au Belatti, the bill’s sponsor, says special runoffs could be expanded to other races. If it had been applied to last year’s special election for the U.S. House seat vacated by Neil Abercrombie so he could concentrate on his run for governor, Republican Charles Djou would not have been able to win with 39.4 percent plurality. Democratic voters were split between Colleen Hanabusa, then state Senate president, and former U.S. Rep. Ed Case. When it was one-on-one between Djou and Hanabusa last November, Hanabusa won handily.

REALITY: HB638--New Voting System for Hawaii: Round up as many candidates as possible, gang up on the front runners

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House Republicans score 5x the CIP of Dissident Democrats

Approved CIP Requests (in millions)

Faction Fiscal Year
2011-2012
Fiscal Year
2012-2013
Total
Say Loyalists $143.2 $30.5 $173.7
Dissident Democrats $10.5 $10.6 $21.0
Republicans $55.9 $53.5 $109.4
Mixed $15.6 $93.6 $109.2
Total2 $228.2 $188.1 $416.4

Source: Civil Beat analysis of House budget bill

DETAILS: http://www.civilbeat.com/posts/2011/03/24/9885-bringing-home-the-bacon-the-raw-numbers/

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House Committees Approve Poker Proposal --Surprise Amendment Would Allow Poker Tournaments, On-Line Hosting

The proposal from House Economic Development Chairman Angus McKelvey allows up to two online poker companies to set up their servers in Hawaii, as long as they only hosted games in which players bet against each other and not against a house.

The online licenses would require a payment of $100 million to the state as well as a portion of the wagers.

The gambling events would also pay for the license and be charged a portion of the bets.

KHON: Poker tournaments pitched for Hawaii

SA: Panel passes poker measure

RELATED: Surprise: Gaming bill passes House Committees

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Rep Brower gets Schooled on Gambling Law

Brower responded, “People are doing it. There’s not a law against it, is my understanding. There is not a law that says you may not gamble online in Hawaii.”

Rep. George Fontaine, R-11th (Makena, Wailea, Kihei), a retired Maui police officer, set the record straight.

“Online gambling is illegal, period. Whether you’re doing it from your living room on a computer to some server in the Bahamas, it’s still illegal, regardless of whether people do it or not,” Fontaine said.

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Things that make you go hmmmm.....THE GAMBLING BAIT AND SWITCH

From www.GOPHawaii.com House Democrats today gutted a bill that would have created a tax holiday for school supplies and replaced it with language that would create gambling in Hawaii.  Oddly, all previously heard testimony in support of gambling was included during the hearing for the proposed draft yet all of the previous testimony that had been heard in opposition was not.  This planned and concerted effort to push through gambling in some form was done at the expense of a bill that would have given parents and students a break from paying the excise tax on school supplies.  Who are the Democrats looking out for, makes you go hmmmm…. *SB755 SD2

Council on Revenues will meet Tues to give Abercrombie the numbers he needs to justify Tax hikes

The state Council on Revenues plans to hold a special meeting Tuesday to revisit its general fund forecast after this month’s magnitude-9.0 earthquake in Japan that is expected to have a drastic impact on state tourism.

In its last forecast, on March 10, the Council lowered its revenue projection after economists determined the economy would not recover quickly enough in the remaining months of the fiscal year to reach its December projection of 3 percent revenue growth. The recalculation — down to 0.5 percent growth — would push the state’s projected budget deficit to nearly $1 billion.

Best Comment: “Expect a doomsday forecast from the Council which will give legislators and the governor cover to raise the GET. It's gonna happen!”

KHON:  Council on Revenues schedules emergency meeting

HTA: Japan Disaster Will Cost Hawaii Tourism $200M

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GE Tax Exemption bill Held, more Prep for overall GE Tax Hike

The state Senate Economic Development and Technology Committee held a bill today that would have lifted general excise tax exemptions on several business activities, strongly suggesting it will not be part of the Senate’s plan to balance the budget.

The House had relied on the proposal as the largest source of new revenue to close the state’s budget deficit. The bill – HB 799 — would have temporarily suspended the GET exemptions on the business activities and imposed a 2 percent, 3 percent and 4 percent GET on those activities over the next few years.

…said state Sen. Carol Fukunaga, (D, Lower Makiki-Punchbowl), the chairwoman of the Senate Economic Development and Technology Committee…. “I think, at this point, we’re going to be looking at other alternatives.”

State House Speaker Calvin Say (D, St. Louis Heights, Wilhelmina Rise, Palolo Valley), said “it’s going to be a big hole and the Senate is going to have to find the money to replace it.”

Say said it appears the business interests that enjoy GET exemptions have again preserved the tax breaks.  “Special interests have prevailed once more,” he said. “I’m just a little disappointed that it occurred. But overall, in the Senate’s wisdom, they’ll find a way to come up with legislation that will try to balance the budget.”

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Prep-Work for GE Tax Hike: “Disaster's tourism impact isn't just Japan”

But Waikiki hoteliers have also reported cancellations by would-be visitors from other countries, and even from the U.S. mainland, where some residents apparently have the impression that radiation from Japan would reach Hawaii sooner than the mainland. (The Sendai area is actually on the same approximate latitude as Seattle, where the prevailing trade winds blow toward North America, while Honolulu is on the same approximately latitude as Hanoi, with prevailing trade winds blowing from east to west.)

The projected decline from U.S. West is less than 1%, but because of the large size of the visitor base from this region, it still works out to a projected earthquake impact of nearly 10,000 visitors lost over the six month period. Another 5,000 are expected to be lost from U.S. East points of origination. The authority expects to lose at least 1,000 visitors each from Korea, China, Australia and Canada.

He said this would happen: Abercrombie: GE Tax hike will be People's Will

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Census: Hawaii 1 of top 5 states in tax growth

Hawaii tax collections rose by 2.66% in the 2010 fiscal year compared to the previous fiscal year, behind only North Dakota, North Carolina, Nevada and California.

Despite the increase, Hawaii is still facing projected budget shortfalls of nearly $1 billion over the next two fiscal years.

Nationwide, the Census said state government tax collections dropped 2% last fiscal year.

Raw Data: http://www.census.gov/govs/statetax/

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HTA to spend $3 million to stampeded Legislature into Hiking GE Tax after Japanese arrivals drop

The Hawaii Tourism Authority has voted to spend $3 million in an effort to offset losses due to the Japan tsunami and ongoing radiation scare. That vote came after HTA got its first look at hard numbers projecting the impact.

"It's about 25% decrease in arrivals this month, 45% in April, 40% in May and another 35% in June. But we're working hard to get back the market and there will be opportunities to make up that difference," said HTA President and CEO Mike McCartney.

KITV: Tourism Officials Aim To Counteract Expected Drop In Japanese Tourists

PBN: Plan to offset loss of Japanese visitors

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Judge rejects suit challenging rail survey (nice show for LaHood)

Lawyers for the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp., which represented plaintiff Paulette Kaleikini, said they will appeal.

All you need to know: Enviros win 90% in Hawaii Supreme Court

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New rail lawsuit takes shape

…a bigger legal challenge could be soon at hand with a group that includes former Gov. Ben Cayetano expected to file a federal lawsuit next month challenging the project’s environmental impact statement.

Nicholas Yost, the San Francisco attorney handling the lawsuit, will be in Honolulu next week to discuss the case with potential plaintiffs.

During the Carter administration, Yost played a lead role in drafting regulations governing federal environmental impact statements. He received the American Bar Association’s 2010 award for distinguished achievement in environmental law….

All you need to know: Enviros win 90% in Hawaii Supreme Court

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Feds tout Honolulu rail project

After their meeting Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Senator Dan Inouye, Senator Dan Akaka, U.S. Representative Mazie Hirono, and U.S. Representative Colleen Hanabusa all spoke enthusiastically about the project….

Honolulu City Council member Breene Harimoto, who chairs the city council's transportation committee, said the council is "very committed to the project, but I need to emphasize that there are growing concerns not only about the money but how things are going."

VIDEO: U.S. Transportation Chief: "No Doubt" City Will Follow Path To Rail Success

Harimoto: We didn’t talk about my concerns

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SB367: HECO wants to socialize cable cost, privatize any profit

If the majority of the lawmakers and Hawaiian Electric Co. get their way under Senate Bill 367 — the bill designed to finance an interisland cable — the Oahu ratepayer will be solely responsible for the cost of the project, predicted to cost somewhere between $500 million to $1 billion.

An editorial in Sunday’s Star-Advertiser indicated otherwise (“State utility grid desirable but help small-scale users, too,” Star-Advertiser, Our View, March 20).

SB 367 contains several astonishing entitlements. It allows the utility to recover the full cost of the interisland cable and on-island infrastructure, no matter what the outcome. Once approved by the Public Utilities Commission, these costs would be applied to the ratepayer in the form of an automatic rate adjustment, seen as an added surcharge on everyone’s bill until the project is paid in full. The cost includes every conceivable expense, from predevelopment through commercial operations, and even includes a guaranteed rate of return for the utility and its lucky shareholders.

This boon applies to the utility no matter what degree of success the project has. Even if the cable is unsuccessful or plagued by problems, the utility will still recoup all its expenses, from planning to operations with a profit to boot.

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Electricity utility and state officials will dedicate Oahu’s first large-scale wind farm today

are expected to generate about 83 million kilowatt-hours annually, the equivalent of 139,500 barrels of oil. That's enough electricity to power 7,700 homes, according to First Wind.

Officials scheduled to attend the dedication include Paul Gaynor, First Wind CEO; Dick Rosenblum, HECO CEO; and Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

The turbines are on 575 acres, most of which is owned by First Wind. The three-blade turbines sit on steel towers 260 feet high, with turbine blades reaching 460 feet at their peak.

First Wind will sell the electricity to HECO at a (grossly inflated) fixed price of 19.9 cents per kilowatt-hour (which rate payers will suffer for) under a purchase power agreement approved by the state Public Utilities Commission in May.

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HB680: Bill would abolish Kakaako makai community panel

But some people complain that the group, while established with good intention, has become a ruleless body of red tape dominated by a few members subjectively critiquing and opposing plans.

About 50 people submitted written testimony in favor of abolishing CPAC.

“I am not a politically active individual,” Timson said in her testimony. “However, I have finally decided that enough is enough. There are a few organizations in our local government that continue to make doing business in Hawaii virtually impossible. (CPAC) is one of them.”

CPAC supporters say the group’s work isn’t done. CPAC is needed to keep the development authority from backsliding in the area of public input, they say.

About 30 people testified in opposition to HB680, including the Sierra Club, Hawaii’s 1000 Friends, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the Outdoor Circle and the Surfrider Foundation.

(This bill is therefore toast.  It is just a matter of how to kill it.)

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Kauai Council to Hike Property Taxes $144/year

Starting July 1, the county will start charging a trash collection fee, which will be added to property tax bills.

The county will charge a $6 base assessment monthly rate, plus an additional $6 curbside refuse collection rate. = $12 x 12 mos = $144

Depending on the amount of trash on each unit, the fee could be higher.

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Election 2012: Kenoi buying Kona Votes with CIP

Mayor Billy Kenoi is proposing that West Hawaii get a big chunk of county's capital improvement projects this year, a circumstance that likely reflects the region's rapid growth, solid tax base and developer contributions.

Of the $177.1 million in projects Kenoi is proposing in a capital improvement budget to be considered by the County Council next week, $21.6 million is slated for South Kona, $12.5 million is slated for North Kona and $1.6 million will go toward a project, Kuakini Highway, that spans the two districts.

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Cabanilla Resolution: Eliminating NIMBY

Speaking of homelessness, safe zones and Rida Cabanilla, a resolution co-authored by her and other reps urges all local TV, radio and print outlets to address the "not in my back yard" attitude in Hawaii.

The concern is that because of NIMBY attitudes, attempts to develop safe zones, shelters and affordable-housing projects can't get off the ground here. Cabanilla and Co. want the media to run anti-NIMBY PSAs…

Acceptable in Cabanilla’s Back Yard: Child molester back at work at Hawaii Legislature

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Looser ethics bill for legislators will make influence-peddling easier

Among the arguments lawmakers use to justify their desire for an official palm-greasing policy, and the pending bill that would sanction freebies, is their need to be educated and their drawing power at fundraising parties and receptions….

Hawaii Institute for Public Affairs… certainly is recognized in political circles, with key members connected to Neil Abercrombie’s gubernatorial campaign.

Lawmakers have framed the measure around charitable groups and nonprofit organizations, which conveys a benign character when many such groups are merely the arms of a for-profit or industry body.

If the bill becomes law, it delivers another way for moneyed and special interests to expand their influence, just as campaign contributions can push power from the people.

Shapiro: Legislators fight for the right to freeload (cont’d)

ILind: Bill would allow state employees and legislators to solicit gifts from entities they regulate

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State Senate Honors Ronald Reagan

The Senate has approved a resolution that declares Feb. 6, 2011, as Ronald Reagan Day.

That day last month marked the centennial of the late president's birth.

The resolution, which now heads to the House, was introduced by Republican Sam Slom and seven Senate Democrats.

Among other things, the "reso" credits Reagan with ending the Cold War and "commitment to an active social policy agenda for the nation's children helped lower neighborhood crime and drug use."

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Matsumoto in smack down of Berish on ERS

Civil Beat’s columnist George Berish is entitled to his opinion but he should not mislead your readers regarding the facts, particularly when he does so to support his personal attacks on the trustees and staff of the Hawaii Employees Retirement System (“ERS”).

Berish accuses me of being “imprudent” as an ERS trustee because he claims to have only heard me speak out about the ERS’ unfunded liability after reading my op-ed in the Honolulu Star Advertiser earlier this year. He knows that is not true. I was appointed to the Board of Trustees in 2001. One year later my fellow ERS trustees and I filed a lawsuit against the State of Hawaii and the Counties (the “Public Employers”) to force them to stop “skimming” investment earnings by “shorting” their required annual contributions to the ERS. See, Kahoohanohano v. State of Hawaii, 116 Haw. 1; 162 P.3d 696 (2007). If filing a lawsuit against the Public Employers isn’t “speaking out” loud enough, I’m not sure what would get Berish’s attention.

Moreover, since 2002, the ERS trustees have annually raised the red flag regarding the growing unfunded liability in our annual financial reports which were published and accessible online….

Clearly Berish knows the true facts that he fails to disclose. After all, he proudly describes himself as the State of Hawaii’s “expert witness to defend Hawaii’s taxpayers” against the ERS trustees lawsuit in Kahoohanohano v. State of Hawaii. In that case he supported the State’s failed arguments justifying its practice of “skimming” - arguments which were firmly rejected by the Hawaii Supreme Court.

He misleadingly implies that because that case was eventually dismissed, his position was vindicated, but that was not the case. In fact, the dismissal was by agreement after the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled in favor of the ERS trustees and the Legislature subsequently resolved not to continue its prior practice of “skimming” thereby rendering the legal issue moot.

RELATED: Act 100: How Hanabusa and Cayetano launched Hawaii Pension crisis

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Online Travel Companies Owe Hawaii $170 Million In Unpaid Taxes

The websites owing back taxes include industry giants such as Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, Hotwire.com, Hotels.com, Priceline and others.

The state Department of Taxation has determined the tax evasion began in 1999 and continued through 2010, with the companies routinely underpaying Hawaii's general excise (GET) and transit accommodations taxes on rooms they rented to online customers.

The companies dispute the allegations and have all appealed the tax department's assessments to the Tax Appeal Court. The attorney general's office filed its response on Wednesday.

The state plans to pursue back taxes, penalties and interest owed. The attorney general's office estimates if the companies pay the taxes as they're supposed to, the state can expect an additional $12 million-$14 million in annual revenues.

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MORE BAD LEGISLATION PENDING

From SBH News: HB 845 is a new bad bill that attempts to force small landowners to sell their fee simple interest to leaseholders of the same land. The bill will also mandate that landowners extend their lease to the lessor within the final 10 years of the lease. This is a bad bill that echoes similar legislation of more than 10 years ago. The bill was heard March 17 in the Senate Consumer Protection committee. I vote to support private property rights.

Hawaii: 35% of teen Pregnancies end in Abortion

Hawaii teenagers have more abortions than girls nationally.

They also give birth to more babies than their peers.

Although Hawaii ranks 17th in the nation for teen pregnancy, it has the seventh-highest abortion rate, according to the international nonpartisan pro-Abortion Guttmacher Institute, (parent org of Planned Parenthood). About 35 percent of teen pregnancies (women aged 15-19) in Hawaii end in abortion, compared with 27 percent nationally.

On the other hand, Hawaii's abortion rate for women of all ages is roughly comparable to the national average: 19 percent.

(The rest is a commercial for Planned Parenthood funding…)

Study: http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/USTPtrends.pdf

VIDEO: Planned Parenthood advises pimp on Child Sex trafficking

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SA: ‘Obamacare’ not so abominable for Hawaii’s Medicare beneficiaries

Lots of folks are mad at President Obama these days, but on the anniversary of the federal health care reform act, the nonprofit Families USA leaped to his defense.

The group did the state-by-state numbers on who already benefits from the law. The largest group: Medicare beneficiaries who now have access to free preventive health. In Hawaii, that’s an estimated 204,000 people.

Children with pre-existing conditions and small businesses with a tax credit are also in the mix, but it’s the seniors and the uninsured kids now covered by their parents’ health plans — 3.4 million nationally, 8,700 locally — that surely will capture the White House spotlight. They can vote in 2012.

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ILWU Pushing Frozen Bread Bill to boost Love’s

Question: What ever happened to efforts to require that bakery products that had been frozen prior to sale to be labeled as such?

Answer: A bill to this effect is moving in the Legislature. The House Health Committee on Tuesday advanced Senate Bill 1086, which would require signage where previously frozen baked goods are sold.

A bill to require labels on packages of previously frozen bread was vetoed in 2005 by then-Gov. Linda Lingle, and a 2006 bill died in conference committee.

The current bill has drawn much of its support from local unions, including the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents nearly 300 workers at Love’s Bakery of Kalihi. Previously frozen baked goods can often mean lower prices for the consumer, but unions said it gives an advantage to cheaper mainland products.

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Former GM: Scrap Yard Doesn't Need Subsidy

The subsidy comes in the form of a discount, which Bill 47 would eliminate. Now, companies that recycle more than 2,000 pounds a month can dump the residue that remains from the recycling process into the city landfill and pay 80 percent less in fees to the landfill.

Facing the threat of losing that discount, Banigan submitted testimony opposing the measure in October 2010. He wrote: "If enacted, Bill 47 will bring an abrupt end to Schnitzer Steel Hawaii Corp.’s Aloha Aina and Nets-to-Energy programs."

The company has since walked away from that position, and a spokeswoman said it's Schnitzer Steel's intent to continue Aloha Aina. But Banigan said a boss told him to submit testimony opposing the bill, and use community recycling programs as leverage.

"No doubt about it," Banigan said. "I was told by my boss that that's the message I should covey, 'If Bill 47 passed, we would have to pull Aloha Aina.'"

RELATED: Washington Monument Gambit

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Murderer may walk streets thanks to Judge Michael Town

William K. Medeiros was originally sentenced to life without parole in May 1971 after pleading guilty to the murder of 18-year-old friend Mitzi Iso Kotzbach, knowing his sentence would be life without parole. In December 1970, she was found dead in Waianae.

In 2000, Medeiros argued that he was denied a formal hearing before the court following the law change. Former Circuit Judge Michael Town granted him a formal resentencing, which opened the door for the Paroling Authority to give him the chance for parole after 40 years.

In the 1970s, Medeiros was sent to the federal prison system because he was causing trouble and has been there since, a Department of Public Safety official said.

Judge Town: Cayetano: Hanabusa's Broken Trust connections lead to Ko Olina

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Ex-officer admits vandalizing SUV

In 2001, he was convicted of making threatening phone calls the previous year to then-Chief Wayne Carvalho and then-Deputy Chief Jimmy Correa, who later became chief, and to two police secretaries.
"Those were all not true," said Yamanouchi, who described the case as "a bunch of crap." He was granted a deferred acceptance of his no-contest plea on two counts of terroristic threatening by Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura. His conviction was expunged from the record after he served five years probation. A search of court records turned up no other criminal convictions.
Lt. Greg Esteban, commander of Hilo's Criminal Investigations Section, says he saw Yamanouchi key the SUV. Esteban was off-duty, but detained Yamanouchi until patrol officers arrived. Yamanouchi said he and Esteban were friends when he was on the force.
"I'm taking a lot of crap from everyone, my girlfriend, family, friends, neighbors. It's bad, but there's a little good that can come out of it," he said. "... I got one neighbor who's consistently violating the cell phone (driving ban), but I make the keying motion at her car. I think I can cure her. It's a disease, and I'm the cure."

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