“I’m running to be Honolulu’s next Prosecuting Attorney because the criminal justice system must be reformed. My administration will champion smart, efficient, and responsible prosecution. We will enhance public safety, support rehabilitation and restorative justice, and implement diversionary programs for non-violent offenders. We can no longer afford, economically or morally, to keep doing things the way they have been done. The time has come for new leadership, for change, for integrity, competence, and compassion.”
Why I’m Running
My values are rooted in Hawaiʻi. Spending much of my elementary days on Maui and attending high school here in Honolulu, I was raised to love my home and my community. Whether running around barefoot in Napili, or finding my way at Punahou School, I developed a sense of gratitude for the life we share here. This gratitude drives my desire to protect what I had growing up, and to make sure it is available for my children, and yours.
After graduating from Punahou, I went to the University of Colorado at Boulder. I walked on to the football team and made up for what I lacked in talent with desire and determination. I ended up earning a scholarship, and in my junior season, was elected by my peers to be a team captain. Unfortunately, my football career was cut short due to injury, but I maintained good grades, was a two-time Big XII Academic All-American, and earned a degree in journalism. Most importantly, I became engaged to my future wife, Rikki, who was born and raised on Oahu.
After returning home to Hawaiʻi, I was hired by the Honolulu Civil Beat as a reporter. I wanted to be a journalist because I believed that someone had to ask the tough questions, and because I understood that those in leadership positions needed to be held accountable. While I enjoyed my time as a reporter, I knew early on that it wouldn’t be enough for me to just talk about what others were doing. I wanted to have a hand in the solutions, no matter the risk, no matter the difficulty.
Knowing that a legal career would afford me the best chance to get involved, I enrolled at the University of Hawaii’s William S. Richardson School of Law. It was at Richardson where my desire to serve was solidified. Soon after graduation, I began work as a deputy prosecuting attorney for the City and County of Honolulu.
As a prosecutor, I was quickly trying cases in front of juries. Within four years, I had led trials on every level of felony offense, from drug possession to murder. The work was sobering, but compelling. I was surrounded, every day, by people at their worst, but also found opportunities to help both victims and defendants. I learned that the position of prosecutor was one of incredible discretion, where decisions affected lives in the most profound ways possible. Given this, I concluded that the job must be held only by those who are decent, only by the strong, the moral, the ethical, and the reasonable. Anything less just isn’t good enough.
But even our best prosecutors work in a broken system. Put simply, too many people are incarcerated and there are too few outlets to assist with addiction and mental health issues. Diversion programs for non-violent offenders must become the rule, not the alternative. If there’s a chance for a defendant to right his or her path, to break out of the criminal cycle, we need to responsibly invest in that chance. This does not mean we forget the rights of victims. But if we hope to improve as a society, to become more just, we cannot fear compassion or understanding. The “tough on crime” mantra must be replaced with the call to be “smart on crime.”
To be clear, there are some that need to be relieved of their liberty. We have no place for those that prey on and take advantage of the vulnerable, for the inherently violent, or for the corrupt. The talents and resources of the prosecutor’s office should be reserved for these bad actors. But in many cases, we do far more harm than good by trying to correct behavior with a knee-jerk reaction for the punitive. This doesn’t work. More prisons are not the solution. Rather, we need to reevaluate how we treat offenders and what steps we’re taking to ensure their success after contact with the justice system. We can do more, and we must.
I don’t think I fully understood all this until I left the prosecutor’s office. After representing the State in more than 20 felony jury trials, I wanted a new challenge and went to work with a private law firm. I love the job, the people, and would be nothing less than fortunate to remain right where I am. But, as I’ve watched the recent investigations into our civil institutions, I was reminded about why I went to law school in the first place.
I’m here to serve. I want to do everything in my power, in the time I have, to do as much good as possible. While we are all disheartened, even disgusted, by the probes into the Honolulu Police Department, the prosecutor’s office, and other city agencies, we have an opportunity – a mandate – to fight back against the status quo. We have the chance to restore public trust and fundamentally change the nature of prosecution.
I am here to fight for what is right, for you, and for a new way of moving forward. I am here to fight to retain the same sense of safety and community that I enjoyed as a child. I am here because I’m a father, a husband, and a citizen.
To the best of my ability, I promise to lead with integrity, competence, and compassion. I hope you will join me on this journey. Because our children and grandchildren can’t afford anything less than our best.
With respect and aloha,