Judge denies plea change in forgery case

A Lihu’e resident has changed his plea in a case that involved forged checks.

Matthew Nishibata, 22, pleaded guilty to second-degree theft on Monday, Nov. 21, before Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Watanabe.

The theft charge carries a maximum time in prison of five years, and a $10,000 fine.

Watanabe did not accept Nishibata’s plea and ordered a presentencing investigation. She will take the results of the investigation, known as a PSI, into consideration when she sentences Nishibata on Feb. 2, 2006.

Under state law, a PSI may be done when a defendant is less than 22 years old, and when felony charges are involved.

According to court papers, the county Office of the Prosecuting Attorney will not object to probation with conditions and terms attached. Additionally, the prosecutor’s office would not object if Nishibata is sentenced up to one year in prison.

However, the court is not required to follow any deal or agreement made between attorneys in the prosecutor’s office and Nishibata.

Nishibata pleaded guilty in return for eight other counts being dropped.

According to court papers, Nishibata pleaded guilty because on Sept. 29, 2004, he aided and abetted co-defendant Jessica Calves to cash a check with a forged signature on it.

Nishibata was originally charged with the second-degree theft count, two counts of second-degree attempted theft, three counts of second-degree forgery, and with three counts of writing bad checks.

The charges were the result of a March 21 grand-jury indictment.

If he was convicted of all nine charges, Nishibata would have faced a maximum of 33 years in prison and $66,000 in fines.

Nishibata was arrested in April and pleaded not guilty to the charges. Bail was set at $6,300, and he was placed under supervised release with terms and conditions attached.

In June, Nishibata submitted to a random urinalysis exam and tested positive for amphetamines. In July, he was accused of violating the conditions of his release by breaking his curfew.

As a result, in August, Nishibata’s supervised release was revoked.

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