Tokioka agrees to plea deal

LIHUE — State Rep. James “Jimmy” Tokioka will pay $1,000 for violating campaign finance laws during the 2014 primary election, under a plea agreement entered Monday.

In return for Tokioka pleading no-contest to one count of “Failure to file a complete and accurate candidate committee report” and paying the money to the Crime Victim’s Compensation Fund, the state attorney general’s office did not object to a motion to defer acceptance of his plea by the court. That means that after a one-year probationary period, the slate will be wiped clean and Tokioka will not have a conviction on his record.

Tokioka (District 15- Wailua Homesteads, Hanamaulu, Lihue, Puhi, Old Koloa Town) may move for an early termination of the deferral in six months. He is also to post an apology to his Facebook page.

The case was unique, in that it was the first time a state attorney general has prosecuted a lawmaker for improperly filing a campaign finance report.

“It was a fair resolution given the situation,” said Deputy Attorney General Kevin Takata. Spokesman Joshua Wisch noted that a deferred acceptance is not unusual for someone who does not have a prior criminal history.

Tokioka accepted responsibility for what he described as an error, and said he worked with investigators to resolve it.

“I know that as elected officials we are held to a different standard,” Tokioka said. “I did everything that the Campaign Spending Commission and the attorney general’s office asked for. I cooperated with them fully. I even took a lie detector test.”

Now that the investigation of Tokioka is over and the plea deal has been officially reached, the attorney general’s office publicly acknowledged for the first time on Monday that it had in fact asked the lawmaker to take a lie detector test, as first reported by The Garden Island. The lie detector was in relation to an aspect of the investigation that the attorney general’s office did not ultimately pursue, and Takata said the detector “detected no deception” from Tokioka.

The Garden Island also previously reported that the attorney general’s office asked at least four other lawmakers to take a lie detector test, but that those other lawmakers declined the request. The attorney general’s office declined to comment, and said that it could not say whether there are other ongoing investigations.

But according to Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission Executive Director Kristin Izumi-Nitao, there were eight cases, including Tokioka’s, that were referred over to the attorney general’s office for criminal investigation that stem from campaign finance issues in the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

A source who has knowledge of the Tokioka case said the Kauai lawmaker was used as an example so prosecutors could set a precedent for future prosecutions. When given the chance to respond, Wisch declined. He later added each situation is handled on a case-by-case basis, and he would not extrapolate from the Tokioka case.

Izumi-Nitao could not speak to that, but she did say that, “this does establish a baseline for the attorney general’s office,” for how it would handle campaign finance complaints. “We’re pleased to have their support that they are enforcing the laws.”

“If we find you filed something and it turned out to be wrong, we’re going to call you on it,” Izumi-Nitao said, of the Campaign Spending Commission’s mission. As far as Tokioka’s individual case, “a mistake was made and there are consequences to that, but it seemed like he wanted to resolve it. I feel that he took responsibility.”

Laurie Cicotello is one of the Kauai residents who filed a complaint against Tokioka. She traveled to Oahu to be present at the Monday hearing.

“Part of the reason why I felt compelled to do this was because as a voter, I absolutely believe we need to have transparency in the democratic process,” Cicotello said. “I was hoping for a stronger sentence, but it was his first time and I get that. I’m OK with the outcome.”

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