by Andrew Walden (Originally posted April 8, 2007. Reposted in honor of Neil Abercrombie's nomination of Malama Solomon to fill the Senate Dist 1 vacancy.)
At his March 5 sentencing in the Honolulu Federal District Courtroom of Judge Michael Seabright, convicted methamphetamines importer Shawn Aguiar was greeted by over 100 supporters, including failed 2006 Democrat Lieutenant Governor candidate Malama Solomon. While methamphetamines ravage the Big Island, Solomon urged the judge to minimize Aguiar’s sentence because his imprisonment might reduce the profitability of Solomon’s 1000-acre Honoka`a cattle ranch.
According to the March 6 Honolulu Advertiser, Solomon said, in a letter submitted to U.S. District Judge Michael Seabright, that Aguiar “is ‘of critical importance’ to the continued survival of cattle shipper American Pacific International Inc.”
Solomon explained to the Judge that she was eager for Aguiar to be returned to the exact circumstances under which he committed his crimes writing, “With my knowledge of AmPac’s operations and personnel I do not feel that they can survive very long without Shawn’s involvement.” Solomon also was apparently not shy about publicly acknowledging that she was on a first-name basis with one of the largest drug importers in the history of Hawai`i and has “knowledge” of “operations and personnel.”
Prosecutors believe as much as 150 lbs of methamphetamines was imported to the Big Island by Aguiar’s ring. Solomon, in her letter to the court, did not speculate on the “survival” of young people hooked on methamphetamines.
Last August, Solomon joined her running-mate, Randy Iwase at an “Akaka for Senate” campaign rally at the Honoka`a cattle ranch of Larry Mehau. Also present: Former Governor George Ariyoshi, Congressional candidate (now Rep.) Mazie Hirono and her opponent Brian Schatz, Rep. Cindy Evans (D-Waimea, Waikoloa), her Republican opponent Bill Sanborn, Rep. Dwight Takamine (D-Hamakua), and now-Rep. Faye Hanohano (D-Puna), a former official of the prison guards’ union. The rally was cosponsored by HGEA Local 152 and the ILWU. A reporter had substantial difficulty getting shots of the politicians at the rally; seeming not to be proud to be photographed, one after another they ducked the camera as it turned in their direction. The best-selling book “Broken Trust” (p 71) describes a 1977 article in the Maui Valley Isle which “implicated (Larry) Mehau in the deaths of several people and called him the ‘godfather’ of organized crime in Hawai`i.”
The average meth “rock” is 1/5 of a gram. One hundred fifty pounds of methamphetamines is enough for over 340,000 ‘rocks’ –or two rocks for ever man woman and baby on the Big Island -- or 13 ‘rocks’ for every Big Island public school student from kindergarten to grade 12. Many addiction experts believe meth hooks a user after only one or two uses and its addictive power is among the strongest of all illegal drugs. A substantial portion of the union dues paid by teachers and other government employees went to support Solomon’s campaign. The teachers union is now fighting to avoid mandatory drug testing for teachers as it negotiates a new contract.
Writing a letter to the editor of the Star-Bulletin in June, 2005 when Aguiar’s bail was set, Pat Puana of Wailuku, Maui explained, “The recent drug bust of Shawn Aguiar, brothers Audwin and Randolph Aiwohi, Kale Ornellas and the supplier, Eric Castro of California restores my faith in law enforcement and the various agencies involved in this bust. Drug suppliers and distributors are responsible for getting our children and loved ones addicted to this horrific drug and the cause of the increase in crime (often violent), divorce, foreclosures, bankruptcy and homelessness. They are the reason our jails are filled and why families are broken up.”
In contrast to the priorities of average citizens such as Pat Puana, Malama Solomon’s letter continues: “The loss of AmPac would be financially devastating to the 400-plus ranchers they service…. The only assurance we, the Hawaiian ranchers, have of continuing with the stable market is AmPac. They have had the highest prices for 15 years.” Solomon’s 1000-acre leased-land cattle operation is a key beneficiary of cheap water from the Hamakua Ditch which is almost constantly undergoing multi-million dollar repairs paid for by pork from Dan Inouye.
Aguiar apologized in court prior to his sentencing saying, “I chose a bad group of friends.” Aguiar’s “friends” may have had some influence. He admitted to importing 45 lbs of methamphetamines and got only seven years in a federal penitentiary. In the same case Big Island cattle rancher, Audwin Aiwohi, earlier was sentenced to only eight years after admitting to importation of 83 lbs of methamphetamines. Federal prosecutors have declined to seize AmPac or other properties owned by Aiwohi or Aguiar. In contrast, 2006 Big Island marijuana busts led to seizure of nearly $350,000 in property while netting only 93 lbs of marijuana from 587 people.
Solomon was not the only Big Island politician helping out meth dealers recently. Convicted Pahoa drug dealer, John Robert Desa Jr., the son of a former Big Island assistant police chief, was caught dealing 0.15 grams of ice and 0.7 grams of marijuana. He was sentenced in late February to ten years in state prison-- in spite of a letter written on his behalf by Mayor Harry Kim. Desa, whose rap sheet is 42 pages long, “had a softness in him” according to Kim. Kim’s letter was not public record and only became known when Deputy Prosecutor Jason Skier contacted the media. Kim was publicly considered by Inouye as a possible 2006 Democrat candidate for Governor. Unlike Kim and Solomon who seem to have ‘a softness’ for pushers, one citizen commenting on Kim’s letter wrote West Hawaii Today saying, “Ice is such a horrible, horrible drug. It is destroys the mind and body. Anyone dealing this drug deserves the death sentence for what it does to others and their families.”
The light sentences and no confiscations for Aguiar and Aiwohi come in sharp contrast to the treatment meted out to Big Island residents who are not politically connected. The March 29 Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports that 76-year-old Hilo resident Cosmedin Quiocho is being threatened with $150,000 in fines and possible loss of his home because he keeps a few noisy roosters in a residential area. In another case reported in the November 26, 2006 Star-Bulletin, Maggie A. Rodrigues, 29, of Puna was sentenced to ten years for forging checks while on probation for shoplifting.
The Advertiser was the only newspaper in Hawai`i to mention Solomon’s role in the sentencing hearing. The Star-Bulletin did not cover it. West Hawaii Today and Hawaii Tribune-Herald coverage described the hearing in detail but somehow neglected to mention Solomon.
RELATED: Hon Adv Politician petitions for drug smuggler
Photos of Malama Solomon in Larry Mehau's barn: Big Island Rancher Larry Mehau Hosts Community Rally for Sen. Akaka