Life goes by so fast. I was born on December 21, 1974, the year of the tiger. My mom Laraine E. Karamatsu was a teacher. She was born and raised in Waimea, Kauai. Her family later moved to Honolulu where she graduated from McKinley High School. She attained her bachelors degree at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and masters degree in education in Utah. My dad is Richard E. Karamatsu and he was an electrical engineer. He was born in Honolulu and grew up in Kalihi. He graduated from Farrington High School. He was active in the ROTC and attained the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts. He attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa where he served in the ROTC and received his bachelors degree in electrical engineering.
My sister Mia is 2 1/2 years younger and sister Lara is 6 1/2 years younger. We grew up with the wonderful guidance of our parents, grandparents, aunties, and uncles.
I remember my mom making me read books and study math and English as a toddler and up to grade school. She did the same for my younger sisters. My mom taught me education, love, and kindness.
As a little kid, my sister Mia and I would be in the back seat of the car counting cars by color. During Christmas, we would count the Christmas lights.
In 1985, when Chicago had the hit song, “You’re the Inspiration,” my sister Mia and I would sing it. I remember packing my baby sister Lara who must have been around four years old, on my skateboard and the wheels ran over my fingers making them bloody. She went to get help, but never came back. When I got home, I think she was eating ice cream or maybe a snack and forgot about me. That was funny.
My dad taught me discipline, education and hard work. He coached sports and volunteered in many organizations for us. His family always came first.
I remember 6th grade, I became determined to improve my soccer playing skills, physical strength, and speed because I wanted to be on the top teams. I would train day in and day out until it got dark. I reached many of my goals for soccer. My intense training continued. I retained this intensity years later when I ran for political office. Also, I was a Lieutenant in the JPOs for Pearl City Highlands Elementary School.
Pearl City High school was a great experience. I played all four years on the varsity soccer team. In 1990, I lost my cousin Greg Karamatsu after he collapsed at school. He was only twelve years old and I miss him. He was a great swimmer and had the potential for many things. Someday, I will see him again. At Pearl City High School, I participated in Interact Club, marching band, even computer club although I didn’t know much about computer programming. I tried to have good relations with everyone. I knew the rough kids, the athletes, and the smart kids. At the suggestion of my English teacher, I started acting in theatre and some commercials up until right before I entered law school.
In 1992, I graduated from Pearl City High School. I lost my grandpa, Maurice Karamatsu just before I graduated. I got closer to him after he died through politics. Even now, I am still approached by many people who knew him. That summer, I got my first job working in the warehouse for Duty Free Shoppers Hawaii, a company my grandpa help build. After about a month, I worked for their flightline division until 1996.
I entered the University of Hawaii at Manoa in the Fall of 1992. I enjoyed taking a variety of courses and participating in a number of college organizations. In December of 1992, I attained the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts program.
In 1995, at the age of twenty, I set my goal to enter politics. I came up with a platform and strategy for Hawaii and my country. My sister Mia graduated from Iolani School that year and entered Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles to study pre-medicine.
That Spring, I rode my moped to see my grandpa Tadao Sakai and my grandma Ellen Sakai. My grandpa is the kindest man I have ever known. He was asleep when I was leaving, but somehow he woke up and asked me if I was going already. He repeated this statement several times. I could tell he didn’t want me to leave. A day or so later, they went to Kauai for a Waimea High School reunion. My grandpa suffered a stroke. I would visit him at the hospital and eventually his care home.
I finished my first written draft on my platform to better Hawaii and the United States in 1996. That year, I also typed out my strategy to enter elected politics in the State of Hawaii in the 2002 elections and I began my database of contacts. In 1996, I ran and won a seat as a Senator of Associated Students of the University of Hawaii at Manoa (ASUH). In 1996, I campaigned for my Councilman, Arnold Morgado for Mayor of the City and County of Honolulu. Unfortunately, he lost to Jeremy Harris. In 1996, I also campaigned for my State Representative, Nobu Yonamine and he easily won his re-election. That year, I also joined the Honolulu Japanese Junior Chamber of Commerce and the Young Democrats.
In 1997, I won the Vice President seat for ASUH and was appointed on the Pearl City Neighborhood Board. I volunteered for Representative K. Mark Takai that Fall. On December 21, 1997, on my 23rd birthday, I graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science.
For the 1998 Legislative Session, I worked for Rep. K. Mark Takai as a committee clerk for the Higher Education Committee. I helped Rep. Takai in passing the college savings plan bill. I campaigned for my former State Senator, Ben Cayetano for his last term for Governor of the State of Hawaii. He beat Maui County Mayor, Linda Lingle. In the summer of 1998, I left for Washington State to attend Gonzaga University School of law. Whenever I came back home to Hawaii, I would visit Grandpa Sakai and talk to him – his stroke affected his memory. He passed away in 1999. I strive to be like him, very kind and compassionate.
In 1999, my sister Lara graduated from Iolani School and entered Portland University to major in engineering and Mia graduated from Loloya Marymount University. In 2000, Mia entered the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine.
In the Spring of 2001, before I graduated from law school, I lost my grandma Ellen Sakai. She really wanted to be at my graduation. Through her I learned to be mentally strong. She was funny. Throughout college, she wanted me to be a medical doctor, but I told her I didn’t like science and math. When I told her I wanted to be a lawyer. She responded, “Ah lawyers are a dime a dozen.” She wanted one of her grandchildren to be a doctor because she had so much respect for doctors. My sister Mia fulfilled her dream. She was so happy when she got into medical school. When I told her I wanted to be a politician, she told me, “How can, nobody knows you. You have to work your way up like Jon Yoshimura (Honolulu City Council Chair and he did ‘Ask a Lawyer’ on Channel 2 News). When I told her what I was going to be in politics, she would laugh away.
In the Fall of 2001, I passed my Hawaii law license examination and became a member of the Hawaii State Bar Association. I briefly worked as a lawyer and then worked for Senator Carol Fukunaga in the 2002 Legislative Session.
In 2002, I implemented my 1995 political goal and 1996 typed-out political strategy by running for the Hawaii State House of Representatives. I won a four-way primary. All the unions supported one of my well-known and much older opponents. The insurance companies and realtors supported another older candidate. The third candidate was four years older than me and I thought we were going to split the same support in our district. No organization endorsed me. I raised over $16,000 through my database I started from college and I spent only about $13,500 in my State House race. I was fortunate to have won with the support of my family and friends. I was 27 years-old and excited about my political career.
In 2002, I started my Internet retail business. An online store selling Hawaii-themed products to customers mainly located on the mainland U.S.
In 2003, my sister Lara graduated from Portland University with a degree in civil engineering and she later worked for the Washington State Department of Transporation where she eventually became a supervisor. In 2004, my sister Mia graduated from the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine and began her residency in pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital in Orange County, California.
The 2004 elections were tough. The Republican Party and its candidate spent a lot of money against me. They attacked me negatively with their brochures. Governor Linda Lingle and Lt. Governor Duke Aiona even walked door-to-door in my district with my opponent. I won that election by a good margin.
From 2002-2005, I served as Vice Chair of the House Tourism and Culture Committee. During that time, I also served on the Agriculture Committee, Economic Development & Business Concerns Comittee, and Finance Committee. I was part of the House leadership as a Majority Whip from 2004-2006. From 2005-2006, I served as Chair of the House Economic Development & Business Concerns Committee. In addition, I served on the Agriculture Committee, Tourism and Culture Committee, Judiciary Committee, and Consumer and Commerce Committee.
On April 1, 2006, I lost my last grandparent, grandma Bessie Karamatsu. She attended many of my political events and was my biggest supporter. I made an effort to go with her to a number of Jodo Shu events. She didn’t say it but I could tell she was happy I showed interest in my history and culture. It was because of her, I got in touch with the teachings of compassion. I finally understand the meaning of life, and I am typing and applying my strategy to tip the balance towards happiness and away from sadness. I also want to tip the balance towards compassion and away from anger. Through this strategy, when applied by many people, peace can be achieved.
At the end of the 2006 Legislative Session, I was awarded Legislator of the Year by the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly. In the Summer of 2006, I received my real estate license. On the night of October 11 and the early morning of October 12, 2006, I couldn’t sleep, and I came up with a fictional story I am typing and hope to publish in the near future.
I won the 2006 election with good numbers.
From 2006-2007, I served as Vice Speaker of the House of Representatives. I was awarded Forty Under 40 by the Pacific Business News in the Spring of 2007. Also that Spring, my sister Mia finished her residency in pediatrics at the Children’s Hosipital in Orange County, California and entered a three-year fellowship in trauma care for children in Lomalinda, California. On September 21, 2007, I chaired the first Peace Day Hawaii event held at the Hawaii State Capitol.
On October 16, 2007, I crashed my car and called the police. They tested and charged me for DUI. I pleaded “no contest” on December 21, 2007, my 33rd birthday. As a result, I resigned from the Vice Speakership. This negative incident came full circle to haunt me years later, since a similar situation had occured to a politician I supported (Rep. Nobu Yonamine) and another politician I looked up to when I was a young college kid (Honolulu Councilman Jon Yoshimura), both of whom I keep in touch with and are just really nice people. Their political careers ended in 2002, the year I got elected into the State House. Although I was shocked and felt weak, I forced myself to keep working hard.
My sister Lara returned to Hawaii and started working for Parsons Brinckerhoff as a civil engineer on the mass transit design on January 17, 2008.
I served as Vice Chair of the House Committee on Water, Land, Ocean Resources, and Hawaiian Affairs for the 2008 Legislative Session. I also served on the Energy & Environmental Protection Committee and Finance Committee. I served as Majority Whip as part of the House leadership.
In the summer of 2008, I was awarded “Champion of Small Business” by the National Coalition for Capital in New Orleans, Louisiana while I was attending the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).
In the 2008 elections, my primary election and general election opponents attacked me on my DUI and anything they could find. There were two anonymous attack pieces against me right before the primary election that contained misleading and false information, which many say was linked to one of my opponents. One of my general election opponents had his supporters taunt me and my supporters about my DUI whenever we were out sign waving. It was the dirtiest campaign thus far. I won the primary election by a good margin and the general election with the most votes in my career in the Hawaii State House.
On November 13, 2008, I became chairman of the House Judicary Committee, the second busiest and arguably, the second most powerful committee. However, this comittee is also considered the most difficult because of all the controversial issues referred to it. I took on the challenge wholeheartedly. I was also a member of the House Consumer Protection and Commerce Committee.
In 2009, I was awarded “Legislator of the Year” by the Hawaii Medical Association.
On June 28, 2009, I announced my candidacy for Lieutenant Governor for the 2010 election. We challenged 6 other candidates, some with big name recognition and strong war chests.
In July 2010, my younger sister Mia began working as an emergency physician in San Francisco.
On September 18, 2010, Brian Schatz, a former colleague of mine in the Hawaii State House of Representatives emerged as the winner for Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii in the primary election.
After weighing several career opportunities presented to me, I accepted a position from Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith M. Kaneshiro as Deputy Prosecuting Attorney and Legislative Liaison for the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney of the City & County of Honolulu on October 15, 2010, which I began on November 3, 2010, a day after my fourth term as state representative ended. I have a number of duties for the department: I litigate cases in court, draft legislative bills, lobby the legislature, and work with government and community leaders.
On November 2, 2010, Brian Schatz, a former colleague of mine in the Hawaii State House of Representatives became the winner for Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii in the general election.
On November 3, 2010, I started my first day of work as a Honolulu Deputy Prosecuting Attorney/Legislative Liaison.
On Saturday, November 27, 2010, my younger sister Mia Lei Karamatsu and Michael Lee got married at Halekulani Hotel.
From November 2010 to May 2011, I worked on legislation and lobbied the legislature on behalf of the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney of the City and County of Honolulu. From June to December 2011, I litigated traffic and criminal cases in the District Courts on Oahu.
In January of 2012, I ended my Internet retail business, which I started in 2002. In 10 years, the Internet market got crowded, and I was so busy working as an attorney so I decided it was time to transition into other business sectors, especially with my passion in writing, either nonfiction or fiction, and legal and legislative drafting.
From December 2011 to June 2012, I worked on legislation and lobbied the legislature on behalf of the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney of the City and County of Honolulu. From July to October 2012, I litigated criminal misdemeanor cases in the Hoonolulu District Courts.
On August 11, 2012, my younger sister Mia and her husband Mike welcomed Elyse Aiko Lee into this world.
From November 2012 to June 2013, I worked on legislation and lobbied the legislature on behalf of the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney of the City and County of Honolulu. From June to October 2013, I litigated domestic violence jury trial cases in the family court.
From November 2013 to May 2014, I worked on legislation and lobbied the legislature on behalf of the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney of the City and County of Honolulu. From May 2014 to December 2014, I litigated in Honolulu Criminal Misdemeanor Court.
In January 2014, my friend G asked me to join him in producing events with his company Double-O-Spot. Thursday, July 10, 2014 was an important date for us since we had a good meeting with key officials that solidified the presence of the biggest electronic dance music event in the State of Hawaii. After 6 months of numerous meetings and talks with various leaders and agencies, we were honored to be able to present the 16th Annual Love Festival on Saturday, September 27, 2014 at Kaka’ako Waterfront Park.
Also, I finished my first fictional story in January of 2014 after 12 drafts, which I hope to share with all of you someday. I came up with this story when I couldn’t sleep on October 11 to 12, 2006. I am now working on my second fictional story, which I hope to finalize in the near future.
On March 7, 2015, I was there to hold my second niece, Sophie Kiyomi Lee in San Francisco, California, daughter of my younger sister Mia and brother-in-law Mike.
On April 7, 2015, I stepped down as Deputy Prosecuting Attorney and Legislative Liaison from the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney, City and County of Honolulu after I was stopped at a Honolulu Police Department OVUII roadblock on April 4, 2015 and was subsequently arrested and charged with “refusal” despite me asking to participate in the chemical test, thus the police violated case law in that a person “must knowingly and intelligently consent to or refuse a chemical test.” State v. Wilson, 92 Haw. 45, 987 P.2d 268 (1999). On November 25, 2015, the “refusal” law was stricken down by the Hawaii Supreme Court in State v. Won, SCWC-12-0000858 (2015). The court stated that a warrantless search must be “in fact, freely and voluntarily given,” and thus, the consent must be “uncoerced.” Nakamoto v. Fasi, 64 Haw. at 21, 635 P.2d at 951 (1981). The Hawaii Supreme Court ruled that the “refusal law” has a significant punishment that magnifies coercion on an individual in that a refusal authorizes imprisonment of 30 days, which is six times greater than that provided by the OVUII offense for a first-time offender, which in contrast, faces a maximum of 5 days imprisonment. Further, the report by the police contained information that were not factual. Therefore, I proceeded with trial in hope of correcting the facts of the case. On March 2, 2016, the judge ruled against us and said that I wasn’t credible and believed the police officers’ false or inaccurate statements in the preliminary hearing, which he wasn’t suppose to do for the trial since I didn’t testify in the trial. The police’s inaccurate or false statements really made me question my career as a prosecuting attorney since many of my trial convictions were based on testimonies by the police. The judge ordered a harsh sentence that includes the maximum jail time of 5 days, $1,000.00 fine, 72 hours community service, driver’s education, substance abuse assessment, and fees because of my background as a former Deputy Prosecuting Attorney and Hawaii State Representative.
On December 15, 2016, the Administrative Driver’s License Revocation Office ruled in our favor for my OVUII roadblock case that occurred on April 4, 2015 because the police violated a number of laws, thus, my driver’s license was returned. We’re still awaiting an appeal on the criminal side of this case.
While serving as a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney and Legislative Liaison, I was able to achieve 736 convictions (715 plea convictions and 21 trial convictions) and fulfill some personal goals through my work on criminal cases and legislation dealing with domestic violence, sexual assault, and other violent crimes.
Being a public servant for about 16 years was definitely rewarding, especially when people express their emotions to me on how my work affected them, but the public scrutiny and high standard expected of me has definitely worn me out, and I no longer believe public service is worth the sacrifice. It appears better to have an average life in which we can get a fair treatment, and all we have to do is take care of ourselves. However, this is counter to what we’ve been taught by our elders and teachers – to strive to be the best that we can be and to help others. I don’t know? Maybe everything will make sense someday.
Since leaving the Honolulu Prosecutor’s office, I’ve been practicing business law and advocating in the government arena through my company, mainly business transactional law such as drafting and negotiating instruments and agreements, as well as government permits, government applications, public-private partnership agreements, and legislation.
Besides business law and public affairs, I’m currently partners in companies such as a Hawaii-based investment company focusing on EB-5 foreign investments since January 2016, a development company working on building infrastructure and services in Kona, Hawaii since October 2015, and an events management company based in Honolulu, Hawaii since April 2015.
I’m also trying to get an agency to represent my first novel, a paranormal romance and suspense story based in Honolulu, Hawaii during 2009 to 2010 that I worked on since 2006. I’m currently working on my second novel, a historical romance and suspense story based in Iraq during the U.S. occupation between 2003 to 2015.
Practicing business law on my own and building start-up companies has been challenging but an exciting journey. The entrepreneurial lifestyle can be heartbreaking and lonely at times, but the freedom to pursue all kinds of ideas and my desire to make an impact on Hawaii’s economy, as well as the global economy keeps me motivated.
These are just some of the events in my life. I have enjoyed my journey in life thus far, and I look forward to many more good memories. I will continue to go all-out and do my best to play a small role in helping people experience compassion, happiness, and peace in their lifetime.
Picture of my family: My father, Richard E. Karamatsu is a retired electrical engineer at Pearl Harbor. My mom, Laraine E. Karamatsu is a retired elementary school teacher. My sister, Mia L. Karamatsu is a medical doctor in San Francisco doing trauma care for children. She currently resides in San Mateo, California with her husband Mike Lee, daughter Elyse Aiko Lee, and baby daughter Sophie Kiyomi Lee. My sister, Lara K. Karamatsu is working as a civil engineer for a private engineering company.
Cherish your loved ones, work hard, and enjoy life!