Thursday, January 18, 2001
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Posted at 1:20 p.m., January 18, 2001

Police detective pleads guilty to taking funds

By William Cole
Advertiser Courts Writer

A retired police detective will serve no prison time on charges he went on unauthorized Big Island police extraditions, sometimes bringing along his wife or a son, and often while on the clock with the Honolulu Police Department.

James Kawakami, 54, pleaded guilty today to first- and second-degree theft for the interisland and Mainland extradition trips — escorting prisoners from one place to another — between October 1994 and last June.

As part of the plea agreement before Circuit Judge Richard Perkins, Kawakami will pay $41,004 restitution and cooperate further with authorities, but the state agreed not to seek any prison time. He faced a maximum of 30 years.

Five years probation also is being sought, but Kawakami’s attorney, Scott Collins, is seeking a deferred acceptance of the guilty plea, a request Perkins will rule on March 30. If the request is granted, Kawakami will get a chance to have the case dropped if he abides by certain conditions, such as not breaking the law again.

Kawakami racked up $118,000 worth of interisland and Mainland extraditions for Big Island police, Deputy Attorney General Christopher Young said. The cost for his son Shannon, also a Honolulu police officer, to go along on some of the trips was $8,365, while the trips Kawakami’s wife, Tracey, went on were valued at $1,299, Young said. Another son’s tab was $784.

Kawakami, a veteran of the force who retired in October, went on the bulk of the interisland extraditions while on duty with the Honolulu Police Department, officials said. Young said his position allowed time away from the office.

“This is a case about outright theft,” Young said.

Young said because Kawakami actually performed the extraditions, $41,004 representing the cost of relatives’ travel and per diems he received, was the agreed-to restitution.

Collins later said Kawakami wanted to apologize for the “serious errors in judgment.”

“But for this incident, he’s had an outstanding and impeccable career in law enforcement,” Collins said.

In court, Kawakami admitted obtaining unauthorized control over more than $20,000 in state funds and on some occasions falsifying requests for payments.

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