Club owner acquitted in sexual assault case
By Ken Kobayashi
Advertiser Courts Writer
By Ken Kobayashi
A Circuit Court jury needed less than 10 minutes yesterday to acquit nightclub owner Jack Law of charges that he gave a man a date-rape drug and sexually assaulted him at Law's home atop Sierra Drive last year.
The quick verdict prompted Law's attorney Todd Eddins to denounce what he called the "most outrageous, reprehensible prosecution in recent memory."
"They had no evidence whatsoever to tarnish a fine and decent man," Eddins said.
City Deputy Prosecutor Luicanne Khalaf said she was disappointed.
"It appeared that they (jurors) may not have taken fully in consideration the evidence presented over a two-week trial," she said.
But the jurors said they didn't believe the accuser and didn't think his drink was spiked.
Their first vote was unanimous for acquittal, but they spent a few minutes listening to each panelist explaining the reason.
"It just didn't seem to be enough evidence to bring this case to court," jury forewoman Robyn Kikumoto of Mililani said. "It wasn't a very strong case to begin with."
Law, 59, appeared to choke back his emotions as the "not guilty" verdicts were announced for three second-degree sex assault charges, which each carry a prison term of up to 10 years. The gallery of Law's supporters broke into applause before Circuit Judge Richard Perkins told them to stop.
Law later wept in relief.
"Hula's for free drinks," he told the supporters.
Law, owner of Hula's Bar and Lei Stand in Waikiki and Wave Waikiki, which recently shut down, said he was grateful to the jury.
He said prosecutors should be very careful before they seek an indictment to prosecute a case like this.
"This can happen to anybody, gay or straight," he said.
He said he could afford first-rate lawyers, but feels sorry for people who don't have the means to defend themselves.
Law was accused of slipping a date-rape drug into the drink of the man who gave him a ride home the early morning of May 21 last year.
The man, who testified he is not gay, suffers from bipolar and depression disorders.
He testified he blacked out and regained consciousness enough to know he was engaging in sex at the hot tub and in the bedroom. But he said his body felt "frozen" and he was unable to stop the sex.
By the time he reported that he was raped, toxicology tests did not detect any drug, but the prosecution maintained the man's symptoms were similar to the results of taking a date-rape drug.
Law testified he gave the man a drink of vodka and bottled water and denied spiking the drink. He testified the sex was consensual.
"We're just grateful the truth came out and an innocent man who has only done good in his life has been restored," Eddins said.
Eddins told the jury that Law has been a contributing member of the community, a founding member of the Life Foundation and a member of the Hawai'i Civil Rights Commission from 1994 to 2002.
On the other hand, the accuser was "truth challenged," Eddins said.
Law, who has been free on $150,000 bond, said the past 12 months has been among the most difficult in his life. He not only had to deal with his businesses, but also the sex assault allegations that he had kept from his elderly parents, he said, his voice cracking.
"I don't know what his motivation is, but I do feel sorry for him," Law said about his accuser. "I wish him the best."
Khalaf said the prosecution had enough evidence to bring the case to trial based on the man's accusations.
"Every member of the community is entitled to the protection of law," she said.
She said she can't say whether this was the first date-rape drug case for her office, but said the lack of positive results of the drug is an issue facing other cases around the country because the drug leaves the body quickly.
But juror Gail Gouveia of Kailua said without the evidence, the case boiled down to the testimony from the man and Law, and the man's testimony wasn't strong enough for a conviction.
"It's too bad someone is dragged in the mud like that just based on somebody's accusations," she said.
Reach Ken Kobayashi at firstname.lastname@example.org.