2/28/08

No reprieve for corrupt Hawai'i unionists

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal of the criminal conviction of former Hawai'i labor leader Gary Rodrigues. Rodrigues, the one-time head of the United Public Workers union and a powerful force in Isle labor and politics, was convicted in 2002 of more than 100 counts of criminal conduct including fraud, embezzlement, conspiracy, money laundering and acceptance of kickbacks.

In 2003, U.S. District Judge David Ezra sentenced Rodrigues to 60 months in prison and ordered him to pay fines and restitution totaling $450,000. Imposition of the sentence was delayed by a series of appeals.

Rodrigues began serving his prison sentence in January.

The defendant's last avenue of appeal, a "writ of certiorari" request to the U.S. Supreme Court to hear his case, was rejected by the high court last week.

Rodrigues' daughter, Robin Rodrigues Sabatini, was a co-defendant with him in the criminal case and was sentenced to 46 months behind bars.

Last October, Ezra rejected a request by Rodrigues to reduce his prison term to 33 months.

The judge ruled that evidence in the case "was overwhelming and sufficient to find beyond a reasonable doubt that (Rodrigues) engaged in abusing a position of trust, obstructed justice and laundered ... money,"

Federal prosecutors said that when Rodrigues took control of the UPW in 1981, he had "the best interests of the union and its members as his priority," building the union into "a large, politically significant" organization.

But that changed over the years, prosecutors said. Rodrigues "became greedy, autocratic, vindictive and tyrannical" and "clearly abused a position of trust," according to the government.

(honoluluadvertiser.com)

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