League of Women Voters

Please provide a brief Candidate Statement, describing why you are running for this office and why you are qualified to hold this office.

I am running for this office to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. There are many victims who need someone to stand up for them because they are too scared to fight for themselves. I am qualified to do so because I was a deputy prosecuting attorney from March 2006 through December 2010, and I have the most trial experience than all the other candidates combined in the past 10 years.

What are your top two goals and how will you achieve them?

  1. Restore faith and trust in the office. To the ethical extent possible, I will answer all questions posed by the public. The office’s position will be that we answer to the public and so long as it is ethical, we will provide the public with information.
  2. Train the deputies. We will hold training sessions on a regular basis and focus on various parts of trial at each session: opening statement, direct examination, cross-examination, closing arguments, and jury selection. We will also train the deputies on ethics, civil procedure, family court, and tort law so that they are not practicing law in a vacuum. It is crucial that deputies know the procedure in other areas of the law so that can think outside of the criminal box when working up a case, filing and drafting motions, and proceeding to trial. We will also train the deputies on the process of treating drug addiction and mental health issues.

What programs and policies would you implement as Prosecuting Attorney to reduce crime and increase public safety in the county?

First and most importantly, we will charge all crimes: low- and high-level crimes. We will charge Unauthorized Control of a Propelled vehicle and all other property crimes.

Secondly, the Career Criminal Division will be staffed with experienced deputies. They will fight for extended sentencing and repeat offender sentencing and they will appear at all Hawai`i Paroling Authority hearings.

Lastly, we will work with diversion programs (e.g., Hawai`i Health & Harm Reduction Center’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program (“LEAD”)) and treatment programs (e.g., Habilitat Inc.) to make treatment more accessible.

What role does the Prosecuting Attorney have in criminal justice reform?

It depends on how “justice reform” is defined. The Prosecutor’s role is to objectively apply the criminal laws that already exist. The Prosecutor cannot make law and should not interpret the law to favor one class of people over another. The Prosecutor can testify as to proposed criminal laws to educate the legislature on the effect of a certain law. But a Prosecutor should never use his/her position to further his/her personal agenda.

Not everyone who commits a crime belongs in jail or prison, for example many people with addiction problems find themselves incarcerated instead of in treatment, how do you decide who belongs in the criminal justice system, for drug cases and others, and who should get a pass?

When faced with the option of treatment versus incarceration, treatment is always the better path. Unfortunately, a defendant is not always willing to get treatment. In that case, the defendant must be incarcerated. If the defendant is open to treatment, then programs like LEAD and Habilitat should be utilized.

Ka Wai Ola

Please respond to the following five questions with YES or NO:

  1. Environmental crimes are often difficult to prosecute for many reasons, including the variety and unfamiliarity of our environmental laws, the unique types of evidence needed to convict, and a relative disconnect between state investigators and resource enforcement officers and the various county prosecutors’ offices.  Would you commit to ensuring greater collaboration between the prosecutor’s office and state agencies and enforcement officers in the investigation and prosecution of environmental crimes?

Yes. The Prosecutor’s office needs to better collaborate with all other law enforcement agencies to become more efficient and effective in protecting our community. I intend to work with all agencies to get this done.

  1. Native Hawaiians are disproportionately represented in every stage of the criminal justice process, including in arrest rates, prosecution and conviction rates, and lengths of sentences imposed.  Other ethnic groups may be similarly impacted. Would you support a review of the law enforcement process to identify potential causes of racial and ethnic disparities in our criminal justice system?

Yes. I would definitely welcome and opportunity to sit down and explain the justice system to anyone who is interested. I believe that educating people about how the Prosecutor’s office is essential. Many people do not even know that they can vote for their Prosecutor. Most people have never been involved in the criminal justice system: they have never been a victim, a witness, or a defendant. As such, they do not know what the Prosecutor’s office role is.

  1. Do you support expanding “diversion” programs that provide alternatives to incarceration or criminal records for nonviolent offenders suffering from addiction or mental health issues?

Yes. When faced with the option of treatment versus incarceration, treatment is always the better path. Unfortunately, a defendant is not always willing to get treatment. In that case, the defendant must be incarcerated. If the defendant is open to treatment, then programs like LEAD and Habilitat should be utilized. I fully support those programs and others like them.

  1. Cash bail has been criticized as allowing wealthy defendants to “buy” their release from jail or prison, while depriving poor defendants of their freedom due to their inability to pay. Would you support the consideration of a defendants’ ability to pay as a factor in determining whether reduced bail or alternatives to cash bail should be pursued?

Yes. This is already provided for in Hawai`i Revised Statutes § 804-9:

  • 804-9 Amount. The amount of bail rests in the discretion of the justice or judge or the officers named in section 804-5 and shall be set in a reasonable amount based upon all available information, including the offense alleged, the possible punishment upon conviction, and the defendant’s financial ability to afford bail. The bail amount should be so determined as not to suffer the wealthy to escape by the payment of a pecuniary penalty, nor to render the privilege useless to the poor.
  1. Would you support eliminating mandatory minimum sentencing for drug and related crimes that force judges to impose minimum prison terms regardless of the circumstances?

Yes. This is already provided for in the law. Mandatory minimums for drug offenses has already been abolished. Hawai`i Revises Statutes § 706-606.5(1) lists out which crimes subject a defendant to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment:

  • 706-606.5 Sentencing of repeat offenders.

(1)  Notwithstanding section 706-669 and any other law to the contrary, any person convicted of murder in the second degree, any class A felony, any class B felony, or any of the following class C felonies:

(a)  Section 134-7 relating to persons prohibited from owning, possessing, or controlling firearms or ammunition;

(b)  Section 134-8 relating to ownership, etc., of certain prohibited weapons;

(c)  Section 134-17 only as it relates to providing false information or evidence to obtain a permit under section 134-9;

(d)  Section 188-23 relating to possession or use of explosives, electrofishing devices, and poisonous substances in state waters;

(e)  Section 386-98(d)(1) relating to fraud violations and penalties;

(f)  Section 431:2-403(b)(2) relating to insurance fraud;

(g)  Section 707-703 relating to negligent homicide in the second degree;

(h)  Section 707-711 relating to assault in the second degree;

(i)  Section 707-713 relating to reckless endangering in the first degree;

(j)  Section 707-716 relating to terroristic threatening in the first degree;

(k)  Section 707-721 relating to unlawful imprisonment in the first degree;

(l)  Section 707-732 relating to sexual assault in the third degree;

(m)  Section 707-752 relating to promoting child abuse in the third degree;

(n)  Section 707-757 relating to electronic enticement of a child in the second degree;

(o)  Section 707-766 relating to extortion in the second degree;

(p)  Section 708-811 relating to burglary in the second degree;

(q)  Section 708-821 relating to criminal property damage in the second degree;

(r)  Section 708-831 relating to theft in the second degree;

(s)  Section 708-835.5 relating to theft of livestock;

(t)  Section 708-836 relating to unauthorized control of propelled vehicle;

(u)  Section 708-839.55 relating to unauthorized possession of confidential personal information;

(v)  Section 708-839.8 relating to identity theft in the third degree;

(w)  Section 708-852 relating to forgery in the second degree;

(x)  Section 708-854 relating to criminal possession of a forgery device;

(y)  Section 708-875 relating to trademark counterfeiting;

(z)  Section 710-1071 relating to intimidating a witness;

(aa)  Section 711-1103 relating to riot;

(bb)  Section 712-1221 relating to promoting gambling in the first degree;

(cc)  Section 712-1224 relating to possession of gambling records in the first degree;

(dd)  Section 712-1247 relating to promoting a detrimental drug in the first degree; or

(ee)  Section 846E-9 relating to failure to comply with covered offender registration requirements,

or who is convicted of attempting to commit murder in the second degree, any class A felony, any class B felony, or any of the class C felony offenses enumerated above and who has a prior conviction or prior convictions for the following felonies, including an attempt to commit the same: murder, murder in the first or second degree, a class A felony, a class B felony, any of the class C felony offenses enumerated above, or any felony conviction of another jurisdiction, shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum period of imprisonment without possibility of parole as provided in subsection (2).

Civil Beat

Honolulu Civil Beat is sending this survey to all candidates for office in Hawaii. Your responses will be published on our website and will of course be out there in cyberspace each time a voter curious about your candidacy searches your name on the internet.

We ask that you email back the completed survey to candidate@civilbeat.org, by Sunday, June 21, but the sooner you respond, the sooner we can publish your information! Note that there is a 200-word maximum for your response to each question; we reserve the right to edit for length and to do other light editing as well.

Please attach a recent head-and-shoulders photo of yourself — this is mandatory.

Also, you can attach your responses as a Word document, but please copy and paste it directly into your email in case we have a problem opening your attachment.

Mahalo and good luck with your campaign!

BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION

Name: Megan Kau

Office seeking: Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney

Occupation: Lawyer

Community organizations/prior offices held: None

Date of birth, or alternatively, age as of Aug. 8, 2020, and as of Nov. 3, 2018: 9/3/77

Place of residence: Honolulu

Campaign website: Friendsofmegankau.com

QUESTIONS:

1) What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your office? What will you do about it?

The most pressing issue is that crime has increased, and criminals have resorted to pushing our kupuna down in the street, leaving them to die there. People have become accustomed to stepping over a person sleeping in his feces and urine and so they do not even think twice about it.

First and most importantly, we will charge all crimes: low- and high-level crimes. We will charge Unauthorized Control of a Propelled vehicle and all other property crimes.

Secondly, the Career Criminal Division will be staffed with experienced deputies. They will fight for extended sentencing and repeat offender sentencing and they will appear at all Hawai`i Paroling Authority hearings.

Lastly, we will work with diversion programs (e.g., Hawai`i Health & Harm Reduction Center’s Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program (“LEAD”)) and treatment programs (e.g., Habilitat Inc.) to make treatment more accessible.

2) The Honolulu prosecuting attorney’s office has been the subject of a federal corruption probe. What would you do to restore public confidence in the office?

I am the only candidate who assisted the federal government in investigating Katherine Kealoha. I have also represented clients who were targeted by Katherine Kealoha. As such, I know who played what role and to what extent each person participated. I will ask anyone who assisted Katherine Kealoha to resign.

Also, to the ethical extent possible, I will answer all questions posed by the public regarding policies and cases. The office’s position will be that we answer to the public and so long as it is ethical, we will provide the public with information.

3) Because of COVID-19, many of Hawaii’s inmates were released so as to reduce the risk of infection. Where do you stand on this issue?

I do not believe releasing inmates solely because of the pandemic is in the best interest of public safety. A judge has already ruled that this defendant should not be released into the community—because he/she is a flight risk and/or because he/she is likely to re-offend. Being in the midst of a pandemic does not change those factors. If the defendant is at risk of death because he/she has a pre-existing medical condition, the trial judge may consider that on a case-by-case basis to address that risk. Otherwise, the Department of the Public Safety has its own policies in place to deal with this type of situation. Inmates are safer in a facility and the community is safer while inmates are in a facility.

4) The recent police killings of black people in police custody have caused widespread racial unrest throughout the country. What would you do to strengthen police accountability in Hawaii, including the role the prosecutor’s office plays in police use-of-force cases?

The Prosecutor does not have authority to direct the Honolulu Police Department. The Prosecutor controls the policies and procedures of the Prosecutor’s office, while the Chief of Police controls the polices and procedures of the Honolulu Police Department.

A police use-of-force case must be assessed just as any other case. If a police officer violates the law, he/she must be held accountable and charged. A Prosecutor cannot favor charging one type of crime over another. A Prosecutor cannot favor charging a certain class of person over another. As such, we would charge police use-of-force cases just like we would charge any other case or person.

5) Native Hawaiians are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system. What would you do to address racism and discriminatory treatment in law enforcement?

A Prosecutor’s role is to objectively apply the criminal laws that already exist. A Prosecutor does not make law—the legislature does.

A Prosecutor cannot favor a certain race over another. This is how corruption starts. If one Prosecutor decides not to charge Hawaiians, the next Prosecutor might choose not to charge another race or group of people. This is not justice.

However, a Prosecutor can and should lead by example, educate the community on justice, and be active in the community. A Prosecutor can educate community leaders on how the justice system works so that those who are in the position to address social and economic issues have the best information to create programs and help the community.

6) Jails and prisons are overcrowded and Hawaii’s correctional facilities are in poor physical condition. What would you do to reduce overcrowding in the jails and prisons?

A Prosecutor’s role is to objectively apply the criminal laws that already exist. As Prosecutor, I will prosecute cases to the fullest extent of the law and allow the judge or the jury to determine if a defendant is innocent or guilty. Justice will be served because a defendant who is found not guilty is freed, while a defendant who is found guilty is sentenced to either supervision or a term of imprisonment. The length imprisonment is determined by the court, not the Prosecutor.

Incarceration must be relied upon within the criminal justice system. Incarceration is an alternative to treatment; albeit treatment is always the better pathway. But the challenge is that very often a drug user will not get treatment unless he/she is forced to do so. Therefore, in order to get treatment, a defendant has two choices: either (1) get treatment on his/her own; or (2) get forced into treatment with the threat of incarceration. If a defendant refuses to get treatment, he/she must be incarcerated.

Additionally, that question is better directed at the corrections division: the Department of Public Safety. The criminal justice system works when all phases of the system are operating as required. Police police. Prosecutors prosecute. Judges judge. And the corrections department corrects. Rehabilitation is key here. Hawai`i’s correction system could be improved by adding more room, more rehabilitation, more recovery programs, more skill building programs, and more transitional programs. As the prosecutor, I would advocate for this; however, my role as prosecutor in the criminal justice system is to prosecute.

7) Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?

I take every call and answer every question. Since my announcement, I have had hundreds of calls to my personal phone, text messages to my personal phone; calls to our campaign phone, texts to the campaign phone; emails to my work email address, personal email address, and campaign email address; Facebook messages and comments; and Instagram comments and direct messages. I have answered every single question posed. Also, I have held eight Facebook live events where over an average of 10,000 people watched and asked questions. I have answered every question, except that at some points the questions came in too quickly and we just did not have enough time to answer them. But if the person followed up with me after the Facebook session I either met with them in person, talked to them on the phone, or replied back to their message. I work every day, all day and I love to help people by educating them about the justice system.

8) Gov. David Ige suspended the state laws on public records and open meetings because of COVID-19. Do you think that was appropriate? What will you do to ensure your agency’s business is conducted as openly as possible?

I do not have enough information to determine what factors needed to be considered when this decision was made. As such, I cannot second guess the decision. However, to the extent possible, the government should be open with the public. A public official should answer to the public by answering the public’s questions and addressing its concerns. Our office policy will be to make the time to meet with all victims and to guide them through the justice system.

9) What other issue would you like to address or make the voters aware of?

Of all the candidates, I have taken the strongest and most aggressive stance against crime. My opponents want to pick and choose which laws to enforce and prosecute. I promise to fairly prosecute all crimes, both high- and low-level offenses. Violators need to be held accountable for their actions and there must be consequences for bad behavior.

I disagree with eliminating the cash bail system because it is not feasible. Bail is the amount of money set by a judge that a defendant must pay to be released from jail prior to trial. Bail provides an assurance that the defendant will appear in court and will not re-offend while out in the community. Most of my opponents advocate for allowing those charged with a crime to be released from custody back into our community without any supervision.

While I am a strong supporter of rehabilitative treatment, success is ultimately dependent upon an individual’s desire to change.  I do not believe a defendant is entitled to, nor will I tolerate, unlimited opportunities to violate the law.