Parole official charged in domestic abuse case
Hawai'i Paroling Authority member Lani Rae Garcia was arrested last week on domestic abuse charges and arraigned in Family Court on Wednesday.
Garcia was charged with abuse of a household member on March 19 and was charged the following day with failing to abide by a police officer's order to stay away from her Kalama Valley home for 24 hours.
Court records indicate that Richard Krokidas, described as Garcia's boyfriend, filed the complaint against her with police. Garcia posted a total of $3,000 cash bail in the two cases. She pleaded not guilty to the misdemeanor charges during an arraignment before Family Court Judge Darryl Choy on Wednesday. Garcia asked for a jury trial and was assigned an April 28 court date.
Adrienne King, the attorney who represented Garcia at the arraignment, declined to comment on the case yesterday.
Garcia and Krokidas could not be reached to comment.
Garcia is on the state's three-member parole board that decides the minimum amount of time convicted felons must serve before they are eligible for parole and when to grant parole.
The paroling authority has been operating one member short since Al Beaver resigned as chairman earlier this month under pressure from Gov. Linda Lingle and Attorney General Mark Bennett, who said a recently completed Department of Public Safety internal affairs investigation of Beaver gave them grounds to seek his removal.
The investigation centered on allegations that Beaver improperly attempted to assist in the commutation of a convicted felon's prison sentence, as well as allegations of personal business dealings between Beaver and parolees.
Beaver's lawyer denied any wrongdoing or criminal activity by Beaver, saying his client had been victimized by false allegations from a former parole officer and from convicted felons facing new criminal charges.
Paroling authority administrator Tommy Johnson said he's in the process of trying to "verify information from police and the court" about the charges against Garcia.
Once he collects the facts, Johnson said, "I'll forward everything to the governor for any further action."
Garcia's term on the board will expire on June 30, 2004.
Acting chairwoman Mary Tiwanak's term expires June 30, 2003.
Bennett declined to comment yesterday on Garcia's situation.
The section of state law having to do with the paroling authority's operations does not address the issue of whether a conviction on misdemeanor domestic abuse charges would be grounds for Garcia's removal from the board.
But another section of state law says the governor may remove members of boards or commissions for good cause after a public hearing on the matter is held.
Tiwanak said a selection panel, whose members include the president of the state bar association and the chief justice of the Hawai'i Supreme Court, interviews applicants for the paroling authority and submits its "top three picks" to the governor.
The governor chooses a name from the list and the nominee must then be confirmed by the Senate, Tiwanak said.
If Garcia were to step down or be removed from the paroling authority prior to Beaver's replacement being named and confirmed, the board could not conduct business since at least two members must be present to conduct business, Tiwanak said.
The current charges mark the second time in two years that Garcia has had domestic abuse problems. In 2002, she was granted deferred acceptance of a no-contest plea on a misdemeanor abuse charge involving her daughter. Garcia avoided a criminal record in that case by complying with conditions similar to probation and by staying out of trouble for a six-month period.