Ex-athletic director gets probation in theft case

Nov. 8—The 76-year-old former coach and Mililani High School athletic director, who pleaded no contest in June to six theft charges and two counts of failure to report income for stealing money from the school's athletic booster club, received no jail time for his crimes.

The 76-year-old former coach and Mililani High School athletic director, who pleaded no contest in June to six theft charges and two counts of failure to report income for stealing money from the school's athletic booster club, received no jail time for his crimes.

On Tuesday, Circuit Court Judge Catherine Remigio sentenced Glenn S. Nitta to four years' probation and ordered him to pay full restitution of $406, 000, which he took over a period of six years from 2015 to 2021.

Nitta's attorney, Scott Collins, said a $406, 000 cashier's check made out to Mililani High School was prepared.

The judge also ordered Nitta to pay $100 a month while he is on probation toward a $155, 000 fine.

Deputy Prosecutor Brandon Golden told the court before its decision that Nitta, who worked as the school's athletic director while serving as president of the Mililani High School Athletic Booster Club, used the club's bank account "as his own piggy bank, " and withdrew the funds for himself rather than benefiting student athletes and the high school's athletic program.

He signed and cashed more than 100 checks, paying off his and his son's credit cards, skimming cash from the high school's fundraisers, and withdrawing money from ATMs on his many trips to Las Vegas, Golden said.

Nitta pleaded guilty June 20 to three counts of first-degree theft, each carrying a 10-year maximum sentence, three counts of second-­degree theft, with five-year maximum sentences, and two counts of failure to report income, each with a maximum 10-year term and a $25, 000 fine.

Golden asked for an open term of 10 years, to run concurrently, for all the crimes, and be denied a deferral of his pleas, so he may "suffer the penalty of felony conviction for this case for the rest of his life."

Before sentencing, Remigio said, "First and foremost, the facts of this case are particularly egregious to this court, and I think it can't be said enough that Mr. Nitta was placed in a position of trust.

"Children look up to their coaches. ... All these letters that I've received from various parents and others indicate the utmost respect that you had in your Mililani community. ... You failed as a model for children to look up to."

She told Nitta, "It wasn't just one misstep (as his letter to her indicated ). It was a repeated misstep. ... After a certain point, your claim that you were going to pay back cannot be believed because $400, 000 is a lot of money."

Remigio told Nitta she believes he will do well on probation and would not reoffend.

After considering all the factors, "jail is not (indicated ), " because of "his extreme regret, " she said, but denied a deferral of his no-contest plea, which would have wiped his record clean after a certain period of time. "Justice requires that this record follows you, " she said.

"Unfortunately Mr. Nitta abused his authority, stole and used funds inappropriately, " DOE Deputy Superintendent Heidi Armstrong testified in court. "These funds were raised by volunteers or were donations received and earmarked for school athletic programs. He blatantly and selfishly used these funds for personal reasons. ... This is an unconscionable act and he must be held accountable for the lack of professional integrity.

"To allow him to go unpunished would be unjust and would send the wrong message condoning this inexcusable behavior. Please send a strong message by imposing a sentence that is commensurate with the damage that he has caused, the trust that he has broken and the egregious act of impropriety that he demonstrated."

Armstrong said after the decision, "The court rendered its decision, and we have to live with that."

When he changed his plea, Nitta had raised more than $400, 000 with the help of his supporters.

Nitta taught at Mililani for 48 years since it opened in 1973, and coached junior varsity and varsity baseball teams before retiring March 31, 2021.

Collins argued that in other cases such as a one involving the theft of $1.2 million, the parties stipulated that they would grant probation if the defendant "walked in with a $1 million check."

In that case one relative paid the restitution, whereas in Nitta's case, checks totaling the full amount came from "the so-called victims in this case, " community members who rallied around him.

Collins argued, "In future cases, what's the motivation for a person who makes the mistake to make it right ? ... This demonstration by the community, my take on it is, they've forgiven him."

The judge said she agreed with Collins that there are disparities with other cases raised. She said in one, a lot of money was siphoned off from a theater, and as the judge on the case, she allowed time to raise money for what was taken, but "not one penny was raised, " so there was an open-term sentencing.

Nitta told the judge : "I did not intend to try to maliciously hurt anyone, but if I did I am truly sorry. ... I lost all respect and trust that I worked so hard to attain. ... I shamed my family and my dear friends for what I did. ... They've forgiven me, continue to support me.

"I cannot go back and correct the wrong that I did. ... I will accept and respect all the consequences that you hand down to me for things that I did. And I just ask your honor for your mercy and grace."

A number of his family and friends attended the sentencing to show their support.

The judge said Nitta's continued support from family and a wide variety of people who wrote to her is a testament to who he is.

Honolulu City Prosecutor Steve Alm said : "Restitution is important, but it isn't everything. Paying restitution and avoiding prison is like allowing a bank robber to go free if he gives back the money he stole. We believe Mr. Nitta should have received some prison time, and that a prison sentence would have served as a deterrent against the theft of public funds by others in the future."