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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Prosecutors rebut filing by lawyers in Rodrigues case

By David Waite
Advertiser Courts Writer

Federal prosecutors contend they presented sufficient evidence for a jury to find former United Public Workers union leader Gary Rodrigues and his daughter guilty of all charges brought against them, according to papers filed in federal court yesterday.

Gary Rodrigues was found guilty by a federal jury last month of 100 felony counts.

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In addition, there was no prosecutorial or juror misconduct nor did federal Judge David Ezra, who presided over the monthlong trial, make any errors in his handling of the case that would entitle the two to an acquittal or new trial, according to the filing.

The 82-page document by federal prosecutors Lynn Panagakos and Florence Nakakuni addresses each of the issues in the 45-page request for acquittal or a new trial submitted Dec. 16 by Doron Weinberg and Richard Hoke who represented Rodrigues and his daughter Robin Rodrigues Sabatini.

Once one of Hawai'i's most powerful labor leaders, Rodrigues, 61, was found guilty by a federal jury last month of 100 felony counts including mail fraud, money laundering and embezzlement. He was found guilty of taking kickbacks from companies that did business with the union, as well as steering consulting fees toward Sabatini for work she didn't perform.

The defense attorneys claimed prosecutors improperly presented evidence they knew to be misleading, and withheld evidence tending to show the defendants were not guilty.

They claimed Ezra repeatedly erred in instructions to the jury and in allowing certain evidence to be heard by the jury during the trial. Sabatini claimed that Ezra's "badgering" of Weinberg throughout the trial prejudiced the jury against her and her father.

In the papers submitted yesterday, prosecutors disagreed.

"Defendant does not and indeed, cannot cite ... any statement by the court which, would, by any stretch of the imagination, amount to 'badgering' of defendant Rodrigues' counsel," the prosecutors said.

The defense lawyers said they wanted to reserve comment on allegations of jury misconduct until they could interview some or all of the jurors, but said the "haste" with which the jury reached its verdict suggested there was misconduct.

The jury of seven women and five men deliberated a little less than 12 hours before finding Rodrigues and his daughter guilty, perhaps due to the "favoritism" Ezra showed to the prosecution throughout the trial, the defense team said in its request for a new trial.

But in the rebuttal they submitted yesterday, prosecutors said the speedy verdict resulted from "the overwhelming evidence of guilt" against Rodrigues and Sabatini.

Ezra will issue a ruling later.