2 former staffers oppose Kubo
By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer
Included among an outpouring of support from judges, lawyers and prosecutors for the nomination of former U.S. Attorney Edward Kubo as a state judge were two harsh and critical letters written by assistant U.S. attorneys who used to work for Kubo.
The letters, from Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark Inciong and Thomas Muehleck, were among dozens sent to the state Senate Judiciary and Government Operations Committee about Kubo's nomination to serve as a Circuit Court judge.
A hearing on Kubo's nomination was held by the committee Thursday and featured uniformly positive and glowing testimony from witnesses.
Neither Inciong nor Muehleck testified at the hearing, which was halted while Kubo was still testifying and will resume Thursday.
Numerous dignitaries of the legal profession, as well as political figures including Mayors Mufi Hannemann of Honolulu and William Kenoi of the Big Island, wrote to recommend Kubo as a judge.
Inciong said in his letter that Kubo improperly inserted the U.S. Attorney's office into a state court domestic violence case that involved two agents with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, or ICE.
In that case, ICE Special Agent Evelyn Delos Reyes Ramo obtained a restraining order in November 2008 against her former boyfriend, who worked as an immigration enforcement agent.
The restraining order, which is in effect until May, was granted after Ramo alleged that Jonathan Winnop threatened to kill her on multiple occasions and physically abused her by "punching, kicking, slapping ... spitting on me ... choking me with his hands, holding a knife to me ... and put(ting) his foot on my throat until I would pass out."
KUBO'S COURT BRIEF
Kubo's office filed a "friend of the court" brief in the case in March 2009, which Inciong alleged was an improper attempt to "ease the conditions" of the restraining order against Winnop.
"The filing reeked on several levels and the true reason for the filing has yet to be revealed," Inciong wrote to the committee.
"It is ironic, to say the least, that if Mr. Kubo would be appointed to the bench it is my understanding that he would begin at the Family Court, a place where, less than a year ago, he attempted to intervene on behalf of a domestic batterer," Inciong wrote.
Kubo is expected to discuss Inciong's letter in testimony to the committee. He declined to discuss either letter written by his former employees.
State Sen. Sam Slom, R-8th (Kähala, Hawai'i Kai), a Kubo supporter, said Kubo testified at some length Thursday about Muehleck's letter, but said little about Inciong, other than to describe him as a friend and supporter of Muehleck.
Muehleck, a longtime federal prosecutor who has specialized in narcotics cases, disagreed with Kubo's policies at the U.S. Attorney's office, Kubo told the committee.
When Muehleck, a U.S. Army Reserve officer, returned to work in 2008 from a yearlong deployment to Iraq, he was upset to learn that a parking space he had previously used at the federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area offices here was no longer available to him, Kubo told the committee.
He was so angry about the issue and other matters that at one point he said about Kubo, "If I had a hand grenade now I would frag him," Slom said Kubo testified.
Kubo reported the incident as a workplace violence issue and tried to fire Muehleck when the prosecutor was in the middle of a narcotics and gambling prosecution trial.
Muehleck hired a private attorney and fought the dismissal after Kubo banished him from the U.S. Attorney's office. He worked for a year in temporary space inside the FBI office here and has since been reinstated.
Muehleck and his attorney, Charles Kleintop, have declined to discuss the matter.
In his letter to the Judiciary Committee, Muehleck wrote, "I can say without reservation that in my opinion Mr. Kubo is not qualified to serve as a judge."
He questioned Kubo's leadership abilities and knowledge of the law, saying, "Mr. Kubo has spent the last eight years building his resume at the expense of the people of this (federal) district."
Those letters were balanced against a near-avalanche of letters recommending Kubo for the judgeship.
Kubo, a Republican, served as U.S. Attorney for eight years but was replaced last year by Florence Nakakuni, a career prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's office here.
State Sen. Brian Taniguchi, D-10th (Mänoa, McCully), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Government Operations Committee, said senators have some concerns about Kubo's nomination. He said his staff will look into the criticisms before the next hearing.