HILO, Hawaii – The closing arguments in the trial of Mayor Billy Kenoi were delivered to the jury on Monday.
At the start of the court proceeding, Judge Dexter Del Rosario instructed jurors as to carry-out their duty under the law. The judge also denied a motion made by Kenoi’s defense attorneys to dismiss the remaining five charges against the mayor.
Last week, the judge dismissed three other counts against Kenoi based upon insufficient evidence after the State of Hawaii rested its case.
Mayor Kenoi took the stand in his own defense on Wednesday, explaining his reasons for the purchase of liquor and other items using his government issued purchase card.
On Monday, the state tried to convince the jury that the mayor broke the law by using his p-card the way he did.
“He’s not following the rules like everybody else. He’s living above the law,” state deputy attorney general Kevin Takata declared during his closing argument.
“7 Leaning Bellinis and a glass of wine,” Takata told the jury in reference to one of Kenoi’s charged meals. “What’s a Leaning Bellini? It’s an alcoholic drink.”
“How many office strategic planning lunches have you attended with white tablecloth, 11 glasses of wine, to rum drinks and a mixed drink?”
“Says he was going to pay the county back,” Takata continued. “For the booze? For the wedding gift to his nephew? For the garment bag?”
“The question is,” Takata said, turning to face the mayor, “When Billy? When? When were you going to pay the county back if the media didn’t bust you?”
“That’s the question,” Takata said turning back to the jury. “If the spending was legal, why lie about it? You only have to lie when you have something to cover up. And that’s what happened here.”
The defense told the jury in their closing argument that the mayor was simply doing his job, and that his actions were not against the law.
“This puritanical, prudish, prissy fixation on alcohol… Are we in the twenties? Is this prohibition?” asked defense attorney Todd Eddins during his final summation. “Are we in modern-day Saudi Arabia? The mayor of this county can expend money on alcohol. And whether they want to have a toast to a valued employee on virtually his last day at work, he can.”
“In his heart, he’s making mayoral decisions for the good of the county out of his entertainment budget,” Eddins said. “But at the same time, he’s not ignorant as to how the hostile media would treat him.”
“Kevin Dayton – a serious journalist – who Mayor Kenoi brought in for two times in his term, basically told him ‘you know, these guys are hostile and viscous,” Eddins told the jury. “He knows these guys. I mean, they were unfair to the mayor. Was it ever reported, the mayor’s role in 2 billion dollars saved for the nation’s municipalities through his work on CDBG? No.”
“But surely, the Crown Royal expenses would have been out on their front page,” Eddins added. “So, he basically makes a decision: you know what, I’m just going to pay them back. Even though I don’t need to. Even though my wife’s probably going to be pissed,” he said.
“This is the United States. He is the elected mayor of a major municipality. This is not Kazakhstan. This is not a banana republic,” Eddins said, before turning to face Takata. “Why, Kevin? Why?” Eddins asked, before turning back to the jury to ask, “Why did the state government do this?”
“Restore a good man,” Eddins said of the mayor in his final words to the jury. “I hand William P. Kenoi over to you.”
The case now rests in the hands of the 12-person jury. Deliberations will continue into Tuesday.