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Ex-prison guard, husband have pot charges tossed

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A state judge has dismissed felony marijuana possession charges against a former Waiawa Correctional Facility prison guard and her husband because the prosecutor took too long to take the case to trial. Circuit Judge Karen Nakasone is denying the state the opportunity to refile charges because Honolulu police caused the delay by dragging their feet when turning over evidence.

Logotaeao Marie Faatea, who at the time of her Sept. 15 arrest was a training sergeant at Waiawa, and John Evaliko-Faatea were arrested at their rented Aiea condominium after police seized live marijuana plants and processed marijuana from the condominium while executing a search warrant.

The state charged each of the Faateas with first-degree commercial promotion of marijuana, for possessing at least 25 pounds of marijuana, and first-degree promotion of a harmful drug, for possessing at least an ounce of processed marijuana. Both charges are Class A felonies punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

The Faateas were not at home when police raided the condominium. They were arrested when they returned and called police to report that their condominium had been burglarized.

Their lawyers say they believe the search of the condominium was illegal. When they asked questions about the search warrant, they said police were slow in providing answers to the prosecutor.

The lawyers wanted to know what kind of camera police used to take ground-view pictures of the Faateas’ 17th-floor apartment balcony and whether they used a drone to take an aerial-view picture of the balcony. The pictures were included in the search warrant request, which a different state judge approved Sept. 14.

Nakasone said Monday that she found it inexplicable that it took police so long to provide the laboratory test results of the items they seized from the condominium and to provide the prosecutor the answers to questions.

Police used a camera with a zoom lens to take ground-view pictures of the 17th-floor balcony, and an officer in a helicopter took the aerial-view picture.

The Faateas’ lawyers had argued that the use of a zoom lens and aerial surveillance was an invasion of the Faateas’ privacy, and that any evidence police gathered as a result of that invasion should be thrown out. Nakasone didn’t have to rule on the admissibility of the evidence gathered in the raid because she had already dismissed the case for violation of the Faateas’ constitutional speedy-trial rights.

“Had the motion to suppress been heard, the evidence would have been thrown out,” said Richard Wurdeman, Logotaeao Faatea’s lawyer said.

Nakasone also didn’t have to rule on Faatea’s request to throw out statements she made during her arrest, prior to police informing her of her right to remain silent.

Police said Faatea told the arresting officers that she had a medical marijuana card, that she provided medicine to all her sick relatives who have cancer and that she also was giving some to neighbors in the building who have post-traumatic stress disorder.

When police applied for the search warrant, they said they had already confirmed that Faatea had a medical marijuana certificate and that the state Department of Health had listed the unit as an authorized place for Faatea to grow marijuana. Police also said that from their ground and aerial surveillance, there appeared to be more plants growing at the condominium than what state law allows for an individual user.

A spokesman says the Honolulu Department of the Prosecuting Attorney has yet to decide whether to appeal Nakasone’s dismissal order.

Faatea started working for the state Department of Public Safety in 2003. The department says her last day was June 22.

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