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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, March 1, 2002

Cayetano defends Bishop case

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Capitol Bureau

Gov. Ben Cayetano yesterday said he supported his attorneys general in the state's long attempt to prosecute two former Bishop Estate trustees but thinks it is right not to make any further attempts.

Last week, the Hawai'i Supreme Court ended the state attorney general's case in ruling Circuit Judge Michael Town acted properly in a series of rulings starting in 1999 that dismissed indictments against former Bishop Estate trustee Richard "Dickie" Wong and Henry Peters involving a Hawai'i Kai land deal.

The high court also affirmed the dismissal of theft cases against developer Jeffrey Stone, also ending any efforts to prosecute him.

The court issued a strongly worded ruling reminding the state of its duty "to pursue justice, not convictions."

The charges against Wong, Peters and Stone grew out of an inquiry by then-Attorney General Margery Bronster into alleged mismanagement by trustees of the multibillion-dollar Bishop Estate, now called Kamehameha Schools.

Cayetano and Bronster were accused of pushing the case for of political reasons. Cayetano said he relied on the attorneys to advise him. "I think that this is not an easy case," he said. "The attorney general is the one that called the shots on this."

In 1999, a state judge ousted Wong, Peters and fellow trustees Lokelani Lindsey and Gerard Jervis.

Cayetano said this case hinged on a technical argument about whether a lawyer for one of the defendants was allowed to give testimony to the grand jury. As an attorney, Cayetano said he believes the state might have erred in not seeking a "pre-clearance" to allow the testimony.

Now that the ruling has been made, however, Cayetano said he thinks the state is right to not try to appeal further. "I'm glad that the attorney general decided to drop the case because I think we have other more important things to do."

Asked if money was wasted on this case, Cayetano said, "I think the intent was sincere and the state had a duty to try and enforce the law. I think that cases are won and lost sometimes on legal points and in this particular case, the state lost in our Supreme Court on this very legal point."