A Laie woman who could face more 1,300 years in prison terms and $44 million in fines for allegedly heading a scheme that bilked about 4,000 investors of more than $40 million insisted yesterday that she wants to represent herself at her trial that begins March 20.
Federal Judge Helen Gillmor spent more than half an hour trying to persuade Montez Salamasina Ottley to allow a licensed attorney to defend her.
But Ottley repeatedly rejected Gillmors advice, saying she wants to handle her own defense.
Prosecutors contend that Ottley headed a group that offered investors 8 percent per week if they put money into what was billed as a "Cayman Islands investment program."
The program did not exist and was simply an international "Ponzi scheme" that defrauded investors from Hawaii, the Mainland, American Samoa, Japan and elsewhere out of their money, prosecutors said.
During the court hearing yesterday, Gillmor tried to impress upon Ottley how difficult it would be for her to defend herself on the charges in light of the fact she has had no formal legal training.
Gillmor pointed out that many of the pretrial motions Ottley has filed have been rejected, not on their merits necessarily, but because Ottley has failed to follow proper procedure or to submit her court papers in the proper form.
At one point during the hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Butrick estimated that he would need 12 days to present his case against her. Ottley then said she would need six to eight weeks to present her defense. But after Gillmor asked Ottley how many witnesses she intends to call and whether she intends to take the stand in her own defense, Ottley revised her estimate to about 12 days.
Based on Ottleys difficulty in understanding some of the issues that were discussed at the hearing yesterday, Gillmor gave her a final opportunity near the end of the session to change her mind about having a lawyer represent her, but Ottley declined again.
Ottley does, however, have two "stand-by" attorneys aiding in her defense.
She told Gillmor she would ask them to review the court papers she files from now on.