FORMER GUAM OFFICIAL GETS 18-MONTH SENTENCE

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By Katie Worth

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Oct. 27) - Gil Shinohara expressed no remorse yesterday as he was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison, US$160,000 in fines, and a requirement to give a speech beginning with "I am a convicted felon" to an audience of 200.

The chief of staff for former Governor Carl Gutierrez plans to appeal his conviction of conspiring to commit money laundering and bank fraud. He will appeal on grounds that the evidence did not support the jury's guilty verdict.

Shinohara was one of five prominent members of the community who were sentenced in federal court yesterday morning in a complex maze of charges ranging from conspiring to commit bank fraud to lying to the FBI.

The other four men received reduced sentences because they cooperated in the investigation of Shinohara and other high-ranking officials in Gutierrez's administration. All five of the sentences were more lenient than the calculated sentences recommended for their crimes. Shinohara is one of almost 20 officials of the Carl Gutierrez administration who have been indicted in local and federal courts.

All five will be required to give the speeches describing their crimes and their consequences, a punishment meant to make examples of them and deter future white-collar crime, the judge said. The speeches can be to audiences large or small, in churches, clubs, schools or other venues, but each man must make enough speeches to reach at least 200 people.

The courtroom was packed with the men's friends and family members during the five-hour sentencing hearing yesterday; tears spilled liberally as the sentences were announced.

Of the five men, only Shinohara and former Senator Willy Flores will spend time in prison: Flores was sentenced to eight months. Both men will also spend three years of supervised release.

Former senator and gubernatorial candidate Tommy Tanaka was sentenced to two years of supervised release, including six months of house arrest. Businessman Takahisa Goto received two years probation including three months of house arrest and businessman John Martinez received two years probation without house arrest.

Shinohara faced two trials this year, the first in January and the second in April. Both trials were held in the federal district court in San Francisco.

In the first trial, Shinohara faced allegations that he abused his powerful position in the government, including charges of bribery, money laundering and conspiring to defraud FEMA by backdating bids.

In that trial, Flores, Tanaka and Martinez all testified against Shinohara. However, the San Francisco jury acquitted him of all charges.

In the second trial, Shinohara faced charges involving transactions made when he, Flores, Goto and businessman Keun Yil Kim bought the seven-story Pedro's Plaza building in 1998. The government alleged the partners decided to borrow US$300,000 from the Bank of Guam under the guise that the money would go to renovating the building, but instead kept the money for themselves.

The jury found Shinohara guilty of conspiring to commit money laundering and conspiring to commit bank fraud.

Judge William Alsup sentenced Martinez, Goto and Tanaka first. All three apologized before the judge for the acts committed.

Prosecutors had asked for the lightest sentence for Martinez, since he had cooperated in both of Shinohara's trials and also that of Austin "Sonny" Shelton, a high-ranking GovGuam official convicted on corruption charges.

Tanaka's attorney argued to the judge that Tanaka, a former republican gubernatorial candidate, had not endorsed democrat Gutierrez in exchange for receiving the bus shelter contract a few months later. Rather, he argued, Tanaka had made the endorsement because he didn't support republican candidate Joe Ada.

Alsup expressed skepticism that the endorsement and contract time line was a pure coincidence.

The government had recommended at least 57 months of imprisonment for Shinohara.

Shinohara's counsel, Michael Green, spent a half-hour arguing that his client was innocent, summarizing the points he made in his closing arguments to the San Francisco jury in April. He further argued that Shinohara was in poor health and had children still living at home.

In his statement to the court, Shinohara admitted no guilt for the crimes he was convicted of. Rather, he said he'd found humility during his trials.

Alsup said he'd made all of his sentencing decisions based on the concept of deterrence. He said very rarely do white-collar criminals repeat their crimes once caught. However, if they went unpunished, such crime would be rampant, he said.

Alsup also said the government of Guam has a reputation of running "more like an organized crime organization than a government organization."

Therefore, he said, it was important to set examples of people convicted of government corruption, however he did note Shinohara was acquitted of his government corruption case. He referred to both Flores and Shinohara as "good men who did bad things."

After Shinohara's sentence was announced, Green asked the judge to place Shinohara in a new prison in Oregon, where he would get good medical treatment and be close to two of his sons, who live in Washington state. Alsup said he'd make the request but could not guarantee that it would be granted.

Green also announced that his client would be appealing the verdict and asked Alsup to delay imprisonment until the appeal is decided, which could take two years, he said. Alsup said he'd consider the request.

October 28, 2005

Pacific Daily News: www.guampdn.com

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