BY JIM DOOLEY – Former Honolulu City Deputy Prosecutor Kevin Takata, ousted when new Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro took office this month, was not out of work for long.

Takata is now a state deputy Attorney General responsible for prosecuting Internet crimes, cold case homicides and the pending manslaughter case against car dealer James Pflueger.

Takata, 54, was on the new job as of Oct. 12, less than a week after Kaneshiro’s unexpected decision to oust Takata and 10 other deputies from their jobs.

“It was a complete surprise to me,” Takata says of Kaneshiro’s decision. “I had heard rumors that there might be changes, but I chose to disregard them.”

Takata believed that his 23 years of experience and record-breaking accomplishments would assure his tenure.

On Tuesday, October 5, after Kaneshiro had won the prosecutor’s election over the weekend, Takata was told via a memo from Kaneshiro that he was out of a job effective the following Monday.

Deputies Douglas Chin and Franklin Pacarro delivered the memo to Takata – both men are also gone from the prosecutor’s office now.

Pacarro ran unsuccessfully against Kaneshiro in the prosecutor’s race and is now in private legal practice. Chin, who was chief deputy under Honolulu City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle, was appointed managing director of Honolulu when Carlisle was elected mayor this September.

Takata said he never spoke to Kaneshiro and never received an explanation for his ousting.

“I don’t understand why it was handled that way, let alone why we weren’t told the reasons,” Takata says.

Takata acknowledges that he is a friend of Pacarro’s and supported his election campaign.

But he says he worked as a deputy under Kaneshiro in Kaneshiro’s previous term as City Prosecutor.

“In fact, he (Kaneshiro) put me and Don Pacarro on the homicide (prosecution) team. I was there for seven of the eight years he was prosecutor and we were very successful,” Takata said.

He says he and Pacarro had the highest conviction rates in homicide cases in the history of the office.

When Takata was told he was out of a job, Pacarro suggested that he call Attorney General Mark Bennett about possible employment with the state.

“I barely know the man, but when I called him, he said he’d consider it and try to expedite a decision,” Takata says.

Within two days, Bennett offered Takata the new job.

He will be in charge of the Internet crimes unit, which primarily prosecutes Internet sex crimes against minors as well as high technology-related offenses.

He will also coordinate investigations and prosecutions of “cold case” homicides.

In addition, Takata will take responsibility for the high profile Pflueger prosecution.

The 84-year-old car dealer is facing seven manslaughter charges related to the 2006 collapse of Ka Loko Dam on Kauai.

The state alleges that illegal grading performed by Pflueger on his land abutting the dam led to its collapse resulting in the deaths of seven people.

Pflueger’s lawyers have appealed a Kauai judge’s decision to allow the case to go trial.

Takata acknowledged that with the upcoming governor’s election, there will be a new administration taking office and politics may put him out of work again.

But he’s placing confidence in his abilities and track record as a prosecutor to hold onto his new job.

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Jim Dooley joined the Hawaii Reporter staff as an investigative reporter in October 2010. Before that, he has worked as a print and television reporter in Hawaii since 1973, beginning as a wire service reporter with United Press International. He joined Honolulu Advertiser in 1974, working as general assignment and City Hall reporter until 1978. In 1978, he moved to full-time investigative reporting in for The Advertiser; he joined KITV news in 1996 as investigative reporter. Jim returned to Advertiser 2001, working as investigative reporter and court reporter until 2010. Reach him at Jim@hawaiireporter.com