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Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steven Alm stands by failed attempts to prosecute 3 officers

Prosecuting Attorney Steven S. Alm hasn’t decided whether to campaign for a second term, but he doesn’t believe two failed attempts to put three Honolulu police officers on trial for murder and attempted murder for the fatal shooting of a 16-year-old crime spree suspect will impact his political fortunes.

“I don’t think it would have an effect one way or another,” said Alm, in a response to a question about whether he thought his charging choices would hamper him at the polls. “When I ran for this office I didn’t even consider that.”

Alm took questions from reporters today for the first time since a judge ended his latest attempt to try the officers for what he believes was a violation of HPD’s use-of-force policy and state law. He said he was “surprised” and “disappointed” by Judge William M. Domingo’s finding of no probable cause but he is done trying to prosecute the officers for Iremamber Sykap’s death.

“I certainly accept it. That is the way our independent system works,” said Alm. “I knew that prosecuting the three police officers would not be a popular decision with some in the community. That is what accountability looks like.”

Alm said he has not met with the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers since the decision to charge the officers via criminal complaint on Jun. 15 after an Oahu grand jury declined to indict them June 9.

SHOPO representatives did not respond to questions about their prior endorsement of Alm or if they would support him should he choose to run again.

Alm spent the majority of his news conference going over the evidence deputy prosecutor Christopher T. Van Marter presented over six days of a preliminary hearing. The prosecution still believes the officers were wrong, put themselves in harm’s way and did not need to use lethal force to subdue Sykap and his crew.

What officers Geoffrey H.L. Thom, Zackary K. Ah Nee and Christopher J. Fredeluces wrote in their incident reports about the danger they faced, after being permitted to sit in the same room and go over their story together, and what their body-worn camera footage revealed, did not often match up, Alm said.

Going forward, Alm said he hopes officers follow their training.

“I hope we don’t have to bring charges against any officer,” he said.

Attorneys for the trio strongly objected to Alm’s recitation of the prosecution’s position and claim that the process was not fair.

“In his press conference, Mr. Alm marched forward with the same misguided arguments that the grand jury and the Court rejected. It was disappointing to hear him misrepresent facts, and disparage a good judge. Nevertheless, we commend him for not pursuing this further,” said Thomas M. Otake, Ah Nee’s attorney.

“The prosecution’s relentless defense of a theory that has been resoundingly rejected by both the citizens of the grand jury and our judicial system is deeply troubling. Accountability is not a principle that can justify bad judgment, much less once that bad judgment has been pointed out by a grand jury. The belated claims that the process was somehow unfair rings hollow and unfairly besmirches our judicial system, especially given the fact this preliminary hearing was unprecedented in both its comprehensiveness and length,” said Richard H.S. Sing, who represented Thom.

Crystal K. Glendon, counsel for Fredeluces, said her client was “saddened and disheartened” by Alm’s statements.

“Despite two fact-finders determining that there was no probable cause to charge Mr. Fredeluces, prosecutors continue to claim that he committed a crime. The press conference was nothing more than a third attempt by the prosecution to argue their case again and change the narrative of the Court’s clear, fair ruling. Instead of using this opportunity to focus on their decision to not proceed any further with the case, we are disappointed that they continue to blame the Grand Jury and Judge Domingo for the office’s inaccurate belief that probable cause ever existed,” she said.

Alm said the action against the three officers would not hurt his office’s working relationship with the vast majority of the department’s more than 2,000 officers. He is encouraged by the police and members of the public who thanked him and his office for taking a tough but necessary stand to show that no one is above the law.

“Judge Domingo made the absolute right ruling. This case is a travesty of injustice,” said retired Honolulu police Lt. Alexander Garcia. “Prosecutor Alm was an excellent deputy prosecutor and U.S. Attorney. He was also a fair and lenient judge. However his judgment as the Honolulu Prosecutor is questionable. This case was not based on facts but on creative innuendos and racist mainland incidents not applicable here in Hawaii.

“Prosecutor Alm should consider returning to retirement.”

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