Roth retains prosecutor’s seat

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HILO — Mitch Roth has won a second term as county prosecutor.


HILO — Mitch Roth has won a second term as county prosecutor.

With all 43 precincts reporting islandwide, the 52-year-old Roth held an insurmountable lead over Deputy Attorney General Mike Kagami, 23,860 votes to 10,902, 68.6 percent to 31.4 percent.

“You’ve just got to have faith,” Roth said, echoing his comment after winning the office over then-Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida in 2012’s general election. “For this election, we had an abundance of faith. We thought we ran a clean campaign to win. When there were lies and stuff, we just tried to stick to the facts and stay positive. And I feel good.”

The 57-year-old Kagami was a deputy county prosecutor and head of the office’s felony unit until dismissed by Roth in 2013 over a plea deal during the Joseph Amormino Sr. attempted murder trial in 2013.

During his campaign, Kagami ran a series of ads criticizing Roth for plea bargains made in a number of high-profile cases, touting his own felony jury trial experience and stating Roth has had “no felony jury trials on Hawaii Island” in 18 years.

One of those ads used a decayed-looking red typeface with the words: “In 2012, Mitch Roth promised to keep our communities safe.” The same ad used unbroken type to proclaim Kagami as “the only prosecutor with a PROVEN RECORD of felony jury trial experience.”

Roth, who was the deputy in charge of community-based initiatives and the crime proceeds forfeiture program prior to winning the top spot, answered Kagami’s ads with his own, including one stating, “Successfully obtained convictions and prison sentences on cases other prosecutors didn’t think would be proved, including cold cases.”

“I look back at the last 3 1/2 years and I feel good, not just about the cold cases, but about (reduced numbers of) juvenile crime, about (prosecution of) sex assaults and what we’re doing there and traffic safety, the work that we’re doing with the communities. I feel that everything paid a little bit and having an amazing staff also played a part in that, as well,” Roth said. “I feel blessed. I’ve been surrounded tonight and throughout this campaign by amazing people that have helped carry me through. ”

According to the latest disclosure report filed with the state Campaign Spending Commission, as of July 29, Roth had taken in $41,405.57 and had spent $31,228.27, not including unpaid expenditures.

Roth had two union contributions, $1,000 each from the Hawaii Government Employees Association and the United Public Workers Political Action Committee. He also received $300 from the Hawaii Island Contractors’ Association.

Roth’s largest individual donor is Janet Lew, a lawyer with a Honokaa mailing address who works for the law firm Cravath, Swaine and Moore, which has offices in both New York and London. She contributed $4,000, the maximum allowed. His second largest contributor is Rick Damerville, a retired deputy prosecutor, who gave $3,400. Damerville has taken on some special projects with Roth on 89-day contracts, including the indictments in April of Peter Kema Sr. and Jaylin Kema for the 1997 murder of their son, Peter Kema Jr., aka “Peter Boy.” Roth also received a $400 contribution from his immediate predecessor as prosecutor, Charlene Iboshi.

Kagami reported $32,902.92 in receipts, including an $8,000 he loaned his campaign. He had spent $29,663.95, not including unpaid expenditures.

Among his largest contributors are Ashida, now in private practice, who donated $1,000, and Stanton Oshiro, a prominent Hilo criminal defense attorney, who gave $1,110 and also appeared in a newspaper ad endorsing Kagami.


Kagami did not return a phone call seeking comment by press time.

Email John Burnett at

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