Sunday, November 29, 2015         

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Police bullying case goes to jury

By Gordon Y.K. Pang


A jury heard closing arguments and deliberated for three hours yesterday trying to reach a verdict in a case that accuses a veteran Honolulu police officer of bullying a teenage motorist at a traffic stop last March.

If found guilty of first-degree unauthorized entry into a motor vehicle, Officer Scott Jones Valdez could face a maximum of five years in prison.

The actual case hinges on whether Valdez legally entered Smith's 2007 Toyota Scion two-door sedan.

Matthew Smith, who was 18 at the time of the incident, testified that Valdez yelled obscenities at him and shoved him twice before issuing a citation with a slew of violations totaling $1,687.

Valdez testified that he neither touched Smith nor acted improperly. The only time any part of him entered the vehicle was when he measured the tint of the vehicle's windows, he said.

Deputy Prosecutor Scott Bell said Valdez pulled Smith over along the shoulder of the H-1 freeway after Smith threw up his hands when the motorcycle patrolman nearly brushed his car.

Bell pressed Valdez into acknowledging that he pretended to take a picture of Smith holding his replica pistol in an attempt to discourage the teen from placing the weapon in his back seat in the future. During his closing argument yesterday, Bell also noted that many of the violations Valdez issued were dropped by a district judge.

Valdez said Smith stuck a middle finger at him after he had ordered the stop.

Jeff Hawk, Valdez's attorney, pointed out contradictory statements made by Smith and his younger brother, Casey Smith, 14. The driver, at one point, said he was punched, and then later said he was shoved, by Valdez. Meanwhile, Hawk pointed out, Matthew Smith said he was pushed twice while he was sitting in the car, while the younger brother said one push happened inside the car, the other outside.

Deliberations in the case, which had been expected to last one day when it began Thursday, are scheduled to continue today in the court of Circuit Judge Edward Kubo.

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