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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Otsuka cleared in theft, forgery case

By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Lisa-Katharine Otsuka

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A Circuit Court jury deliberated a day before acquitting Lisa-Katharine Otsuka of all charges in a theft and forgery case that began more than nine years ago.

Otsuka said after yesterday's verdict that she believes she was prosecuted as punishment for her refusal to testify before a 2002 grand jury investigating the campaign finances of then-Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris.

Otsuka said she is considering filing a civil suit against the Office of the Prosecting Attorney.

"We haven't made a decision. But there was a lot that wasn't told and there was a lot that couldn't be said because of the way court proceeds," she said.

Deputy prosecutor Paul Mow said after the verdict that there was adequate evidence to bring charges against Otsuka and he blamed lengthy delays in the case on the defendant.

"There's been many delays in this trial, dealing with changes in attorney, pregnancies, departures from the island," Mow said.

Otsuka is still facing charges in a separate theft case following a trial that ended with a hung jury. Mow said his office will review that case to determine whether to proceed with a retrial.

"There's no final decision that has been made," he said.

Yesterday's acquittal involved allegations Otsuka stole more than $12,000 in 1999 while working for a car repair company.

The head of the company, Bev Harbin, testified as a prosecution witness last week that her recollection of some of the evidence in the case had grown "fuzzy" over the past 10 years.

Harbin herself was once at the center of a political controversy. She was appointed to serve in the state Legislature in 2005 by Gov. Linda Lingle and then refused the governor's calls to resign after reports that she owed back state taxes and had old misdemeanor convictions for writing bad checks.

Harbin lost her seat in the 2006 Democratic primary election.