Thursday, January 26, 2012


POLITICAL THEATER ON RYE... WITH MUSTARD PLEASE: What with all the fun and games of the Iseri-Bynum circus of the absurd, the status and functionality of the Victim-Witness Program (VWP), the meat of the recent political sandwich, hasn't really received much press.

As we reported two weeks ago (January 12) according to a scathing letter to the Kaua`i County Council by Erin Wilson, a terminated Victim-Witness Counselor at the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney (OPA, the program is now dysfunctional due to the requirement that all communications with outside agencies and the world in general be channeled through Prosecutor Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho, the lack of communications between those performing VWP services and many other issues such as the 17 new faces at the OPA since Iseri came into office.

According to the agenda for last Thursday's council meeting, Council Vice Chair JoAnn Yukimura asked Iseri to come before the council to discuss "the status of the Victim-Witness Program and OPA." And when Councilmember Tim Bynum recused himself due to Iseri's prosecution of him for alleged zoning violations at his home- as we detailed yesterday- Yukimura took over the questioning that, according to Bynum, had been suspended in 2009 when then Chair Kaipo Asing stopped it.

But not before Iseri, trying to direct the show, dragged up her whole department to blow smoke up everyone's butts after demanding that Wilson be questioned, spurring Chair Jay Furfaro to remind her that he was the one running the show.

Instead Yukimura asked for current VWP employee Dianne Gauspohl-White to come up to tesfy. She pretty much backed up most of Wilson's complaints although saying she could only speak from her perspective.

At first Yukimura's questioning elicited mostly red-faced rage, bluster and misdirection on Iseri's part, complaining how she and her staff had to take valuable time to present information they had supposedly already presented.

But after Iseri's right hand man First Deputy Prosecutor Jake DelaPlane- who continually throughout the session pulled her butt out of the sling she had created through her own belligerence- did a PowerPoint presentation with lots of numbers and statistics but almost nothing on the VWP, the questioning of Iseri by Yukimura began, mostly based on Wilson's allegations.

Things were going along swimmingly (not) with Iseri parrying Yukimura's questions with non-responsive "answers" and continual reminders that she had already presented the requested material, when Yukimura finally asked the right questions and hit a jackpot of an answer.

"The Victim Witness Program no longer exists" Iseri told a stunned council.

Seems that Iseri has instituted a program called "vertical prosecution." Formerly deputy prosecutors were assigned to individual courts, not to individual cases. That meant that many times an attorney got the case for the first time when he showed up to court after a case had, for example, been moved from district to circuit court or from the court of one judge to another.

"Vertical prosecution" (VP) is a system where each case is assigned to one attorney who takes it from beginning to end, usually sorted by subject matter- drugs, violent crime, domestic, white collar crime etc.- supposedly creating attorneys with expertise in a certain area.

It actually sounds like a good and long overdue practice.

Under VP each individual attorney has a "team" assigned to him or her- a law clerk, and now, a Victim-Witness (VW) counselor.

And in Iseri's office that apparently has come to mean that there's no cross communication anymore between the various VW employees.

According to White and Wilson, VW employees are now tasked by the attorney who almost exclusively assigns them tasks like calling specific victims and witnesses to let them know about court dates, changes in case status and those kinds of things.

Apparently the actual "counseling" part has fallen through the cracks and not only that but the only victims and witnesses contacted by the counselors are those the attorney on the team tells them to call- and then only to communicate matters regarding the case status.

It used to be that VW employees met every month, traveled to conferences and did a lot of evaluation of whether and how services were being delivered to VWs. But that is a thing of the past with VP where counselors are now "team members" whose actions are dictated by either the attorneys in charge of the team or Iseri herself.

Whereas vertical integration is growing in popularity in the offices of prosecutors and district attorneys across the country- and, according to Councilmember and Iseri ally Mel Rapozo, is by far the most popular management scheme- robust victim witness counseling can wind up being be sacrificed.

Especially if a megalomaniacal, puerile, petty, vindictive, ego-driven prosecutor is the one running the show.

The rest of Yukimura's questioning revealed that, despite requests from the council that statistics and information be presented in an intelligible manner and one that addresses questions the council has- like how all the monies from the various VW programs from the county state and federal governments are actually spent- they are embedded in spread sheets and long narratives where there's little or no possibility of extracting the pertinent information.

It all ended up with DelaPlane- who had taken over much of the question-answering after Iseri's patented self-righteous, rage-filled and spittle-spewing attacks on the questions and questioner became self-defeating- promising to put the statistics in meaningful formats for the new budget... and, importantly, to provide the evaluation forms that victims and witnesses have filled out for those entities providing the grants, which had never been provided to the council previous to the request.

We can expect a repeat performance during the budget hearings starting in March when the OPA presents its budget. But more importantly we just may get some of the issues aired during this year's election campaign where current Deputy County Attorney for the Kaua`i Police Department (KPD), Justin Kollar, is challenging Iseri for the Prosecutor's job.

Iseri won her first and only term as prosecutor in 2008 running unopposed, leaving her position on the county council after four years there.

Although the community has suffered in all this, personally we can't be too distressed with the Bynum matter, the victim witness program questions and other brewing debacles promise that this summer will be anything but a dull one in this space.

So thank you Shay- you're a columnist's dream. So much so that we're torn between supporting Justin for the sake of the community or you for being the gift that keeps on giving.

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