Tuesday | December 12, 2017
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State briefs for May 19

Honolulu rail officials debate funding; feds want details

HONOLULU (AP) — The Honolulu rail transit project’s top official says the federal government is anxious for more details on how the city plans to pay for its partially built $8.2 billion rail line.

The project faces a funding shortfall of up to $3 billion, and the state Legislature ended its last session without agreeing on who to tax to fund the project.

Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation interim CEO Krishniah Murthy and the board on Thursday discussed how the project will run out of money in January.

Board members debated asking the Honolulu City Council for permission to issue up to $350 million in bonds. But some said they should consider issuing more bonds than that. Chief Financial Officer Robert Yu says $350 million in bonds would last until June 2018.

Man sentenced to life in prison for murder

HONOLULU (AP) — A Hawaii man who pleaded guilty to murdering a real estate agent and actress was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum of 20 years.

Vernon Baker was sentenced Wednesday for the murder that occurred nearly four years ago.

Baker stabbed Mary Beth San Juan to death before leaving her body wrapped in a rug in the driveway of her home, police and prosecutors said.

Baker said in court he does not believe he deserves to live. He had described his crime as senseless.

“I can’t, I can’t apologize,” Baker said. “I can, but I can’t. There’s no possible thing I can say to make this right. I don’t deserve to live, I don’t deserve to live.”

Baker met San Juan and her ex-husband just weeks before the murder.

“Mary Beth had helped Mr. Baker in the past find a place to stay for months,” the victim’s ex-husband Alberto San Juan said. “And I don’t understand how he can do this to somebody who’s as beautiful as Mary Beth, who has always been nice to people. I just didn’t understand that.”

The Parole Board will next take up issue of whether Baker will serve the rest of his life in prison or the 20-year minimum.

“There is no doubt that this is a heinous crime, and what even Mr. Baker believes is a senseless crime,” Circuit Judge Paul Wong said.

Sen. Hirono recovering after kidney surgery

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono is recovering after having surgery to remove a kidney.

The first-term Democrat is being treated for Stage 4 kidney cancer. She says she has a favorable prognosis from her doctor in Washington. Cancer was also found in one of her ribs.

After her surgery Wednesday, Hirono issued a statement applauding former FBI Director Robert Mueller’s appointment as special counsel to investigate President Donald Trump’s involvement with Russia. She called it a victory for the American people and says she hopes Mueller’s investigation will be truly independent.

Hirono says she will continue to work during her cancer treatment.

Reality TV star won’t help pick next police chief

HONOLULU (AP) — The wife of “Dog the Bounty Hunter” reality TV star Duane “Dog” Chapman won’t have a role in helping select the next chief of the Honolulu Police Department.

The police commission during a meeting Wednesday decided to scrap plans for a citizen panel that would have helped screen candidates vying to replace Louis Kealoha, who retired amid a federal corruption investigation.

Commission Chairman Max Sword made headlines earlier this month by nominating Beth Chapman, touting her experience in the bail bonds business.

Commissioner Steve Levinson said he supports moving forward with the chief’s selection process without creating the five-member panel.

“I have been approached by a number of people … who have expressed consternation over one particular nomination,” he said.


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