Teacher pleads guilty in ice case
By Peter Boylan
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Peter Boylan
A special education teacher caught distributing crystal meth-amphetamine during a federal sting operation pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court and plans to enter a residential drug treatment facility before his sentencing.
Surrounded by 15 family members and friends, Leilehua High School teacher Lee N. Anzai, 29, entered his plea before U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright.
Anzai, a former Hawai'i Pacific University baseball player, who admitted to using ice since his playing days in 1999, was accused of selling more than $40,000 worth of crystal meth. He pleaded guilty to a single count of knowingly and intentionally selling more than 138.8 grams of the drug for $13,500. Anzai will be sentenced June 4.
Anzai faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and up to life, a $4 million fine, a minimum of five years and up to life probation and a $100 special assessment.
Seabright granted a motion by Anzai's attorney Howard Luke to release Anzai on $15,000 bail before his sentencing. Anzai will go straight from the federal detention center to the Hina Mauka residential drug treatment facility where he will undergo an intensive 30-day rehabilitation program.
Anzai will then be released into the custody of his father-in-law, Howard Kashima.
"You need to take these provisions very seriously," said Seabright, speaking to Anzai in court. "If not, you'll be back in prison in a heartbeat."
Anzai admitted that on Sept. 19 he arranged to meet a deputy sheriff posing as an undercover drug purchaser in the parking lot of a Waipi'o shopping center. Anzai acknowledged that he dropped off a plastic bag of methamphetamine and picked up another filled with cash.
"I made a telephone call, I met him that day and I distributed more than 50 grams of meth to him," said Anzai in court yesterday.
As part of the plea, he acknowledged selling ice to the government on four other occasions.
Anzai's family and friends declined comment after the proceedings.
"I love you," his wife, Sherri, told Anzai from the gallery as he was escorted out of the courtroom.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Kawahara said that Anzai could apply for a provision that would allow Seabright to impose a sentence below the mandatory minimum of 10 years. Kawahara acknowledged Anzai's willingness to quickly accept responsibility for his actions and said that will play a role during his sentencing.
Despite Anzai's lack of a criminal history, Kawahara stressed that the severity of the crime demands significant jail time.
"Of particular concern to my office is that on at least one occasion he was negotiating the sale of drugs while sitting in a classroom," said Kawahara, speaking outside of court yesterday. "That's an aggravating matter and it shows how far he went."
Anzai's attorney said his client was remorseful and apologetic for the pain and embarrassment his arrest has caused his family, friends, and the students he taught. Luke said Anzai is a "very good person" who dedicated his life to helping special-needs children.
Anzai said the arrest was a good thing in that it helped him confront his ice addiction, Luke said.
"He is a schoolteacher not a professional drug dealer," Luke said outside of court. "It's a really sad situation. He's a really nice man. I'm sorry he has to look forward to the next few years in prison."
Anzai's son will celebrate his first birthday in January.
The criminal complaint and affidavit filed in support of the charge against Anzai contain allegations that in addition to selling ice, he had been an ice user for seven to eight years — dating to 1998 or 1999. Anzai was captain of the HPU baseball team as a senior in 1999.
Reach Peter Boylan at firstname.lastname@example.org.