A judge says the state took too long to try four officers accused of altering police reports
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, May 24, 2011
A state judge dismissed all charges Monday against the four remaining Honolulu police officers accused of falsifying reports to qualify for overtime.
Sgts. Duke Zoller and Aaron M. Bernal and officers Christopher and Patrick Bugarin were scheduled to stand trial later this week for tampering with government records, theft and accomplice to theft.
However, Circuit Judge Edward H. Kubo Jr. dismissed the charges because the state took too long to bring the cases to trial. He will decide next week whether the state can refile the charges.
Two other police officers, Leighton Kato and Michael Krekel, had separate trials earlier this month. Their juries found them not guilty.
A seventh officer, Brian Morris, pleaded guilty in March to tampering with a government record and is awaiting sentencing. However, he is asking for a deferral of his plea to the misdemeanor charge and a chance to have the charge cleared from his criminal record.
All seven are members of Honolulu Police Department's Selective Enforcement Unit, which conducts nighttime DUI checkpoints.
The state Constitution guarantees anyone accused in criminal prosecutions the right to a speedy and public trial.
State case law and the Hawaii Rules of Penal Procedure define "speedy trial" as one commencing within six months or 180 days.
According to Kubo's calculations, excluding periods of delay caused or agreed to by the defendants, 185 days had passed from the time Zoller and Bernal were charged in October. For the Bugarin brothers, 192 days had elapsed.
All seven were accused of a practice known as "piggybacking," putting the names of as many officers on an arrest report as possible to increase the likelihood that all would get subpoenaed should the defendant challenge his arrest and charge. If one officer makes a determination of probable cause, another one conducts the field sobriety test, another officer makes the arrest, a different one transports the person to police main headquarters or a substation and yet another officer administers the breathalyzer.
All would have their names on the arrest report. If they were subpoenaed and went to court, it would be on overtime.
The seven were charged with putting the names of officers on reports who were not part of the arrest and, in Zoller's and Bernal's cases, for submitting reports even though they were not working. Only Zoller was accused of claiming overtime to which he was not entitled.