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Holmes Athey Wins Not Guilty Verdict on All Counts for Attorney in High-Profile Public Corruption Case

May 18, 2024

Holmes, Athey, Cowan & Mermelstein LLP, a Los Angeles-based boutique law firm specializing in white collar defense and complex civil litigation, won a complete victory after a lengthy criminal trial in Hawaii federal court for an attorney charged with conspiring to commit bribery and violate civil rights.

Honolulu, HI, May 17, 2024 – After a lengthy FBI investigation culminating in a federal trial with prosecutors presenting evidence for over two months, and calling over 40 witnesses, the jury deliberated for less than two full days before returning not guilty verdicts for all defendants on all counts.  Among those exonerated was Holmes Athey’s client, Sheri Tanaka, an attorney licensed to practice law in Hawaii and California.  Tanaka had formerly acted as counsel for Honolulu-based engineering firm Mitsunaga & Associates (MAI), which had in 2012 referred a former employee to the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney for the City and County of Honolulu for criminal prosecution.  After evaluating the referral, the prosecutor’s office filed criminal theft charges against the former MAI employee. Many years later, San Diego based federal prosecutors filed federal criminal charges against the elected Prosecuting Attorney, several MAI executives, and Ms. Tanaka alleging that the criminal charges against the former employee had been procured by bribes and filed in violation of the former employee’s federal civil rights. After hearing two months of evidence presented by the federal prosecutors, the jury quickly and emphatically rejected the government’s case, fully vindicating Ms. Tanaka and her co-defendants.

Tanaka’s legal team was led by Mark Mermelstein and Andrew Cowan of Holmes Athey. They were joined by Hawaii-based counsel Crystal Glendon of Glendon & Ponce, LLLC. “We’re pleased that the jury patiently listened to all of the evidence before soundly rejecting the prosecutors’  notion that the criminal referral was anything other than an attorney just doing her job,” Mermelstein said. “These baseless allegations have been hanging over Ms. Tanaka for too long and we are ecstatic that she can finally put this matter behind her.” 

This victory especially stands out because acquittals in a federal criminal trial are extremely rare. Pew Research Group, looking at 2022 U.S. court data, found that only 0.4% of federal criminal defendants went to trial and were acquitted. 

The case was  United States v. Kaneshiro, et al. (CR-2200048 TMB-NC), Hawaii District Court.


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