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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, June 27, 2001

Closing arguments tomorrow in Mirikitani trial

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

City Councilman Andy Mirikitani's girlfriend declined to take the stand in her own defense yesterday, paving the way for closing arguments tomorrow and for the jury to start deliberating in the bribery case against the couple.

Sharron Bynum, Mirkitani's codefendant and a city property manager, told U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor that she had decided not to testify.

"That's my own independent decision," Bynum said.

After she declined to testify, both the prosecution and the defense attorneys rested their case.

Mirikitani stands accused of theft, bribery, extortion, wire fraud and witness tampering in connection with allegations that he gave former employees Cindy McMillan and Jonn Serikawa nearly $26,600 in bonuses in exchange for them paying him and his campaign about $6,600, about half the bonus after taxes.

Bynum is charged with helping Mirikitani in the alleged bribery scheme.

Mirikitani spent most of the morning on the stand under cross-examination from Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Seabright.

Mirikitani, a 45-year-old attorney, was first elected to the Council in 1990 and represents Manoa, Makiki, McCully and other urban communities.

While he was on the stand, Mirikitani asked to have most of the questions repeated to him and he frequently answered, "I don't remember."

Seabright asked him about recalling in great detail part of the afternoon of July 15, 1999, such as how long he talked on the telephone to Bynum and that he didn't give Serikawa a ride home that day.

But Mirikitani could not explain how it was that he couldn't remember other things — including attending the Makiki Neighborhood Board meeting — until Seabright showed him a copy of the minutes of that public meeting showing him as a guest at the 7 p.m. event.

Seabright also quizzed Mirikitani on why he wrote down suggestions for what McMillan should say to an investigator when the two met at a city event after the FBI probe began.

"If you had nothing to hide, why didn't you just talk to her?" Seabright asked. Mirikitani replied that he didn't want to be overheard by city employees "who were under Jeremy Harris's political control."

Seabright pressed on: "If it was the truth, why did she have to be reminded?" Mirikitani answered: "People don't always tell the truth."

Mirikitani also testified that he gave out large bonuses rather than allow the money to lapse and be returned to the city general fund with other tax dollars.

Seabright asked him what would happen to the money if it went back. Mirikitani replied that it would be used for other things, "perhaps for wasteful purposes."

He defended the large bonuses, "for people who work hard, they deserve it."