Police statement might not be allowed in case against suspected ice dealer

LIHU’E — County prosecutors are upset that a statement given to police by a suspected ice dealer has been ruled inadmissible as evidence in a court case.

There is disagreement between a Kaua’i Police Department officer and the suspect about whether or not the statement was given after the officer made the suspect a verbal commitment to release him, his wife and daughter and try to have the charges reduced or dismissed.

First Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Richard Minatoya filed late last month a motion to reconsider a ruling made by Fifth Circuit Court Chief Judge George Masuoka.

In that ruling, Masuoka determined that Rizal Balgos’ statement made to KPD officers was not made voluntarily, and ruled that statement inadmissible as evidence at his jury trial, which is scheduled to begin in January.

According to court documents, Balgos said a police officer told him that if he cooperated, he and his wife and daughter would be released, and that charges would be reduced or dropped.

During an earlier hearing, the officer said he didn’t recall making that promise.

Masuoka ruled on Oct. 24 that Balgos’ statement was obtained through a promise made, and therefore the statement would not be allowed to be used in further court proceedings.

Minatoya wrote in court documents that on Oct. 10, Masuoka said he would rule on the motion about whether Balgos voluntarily made a statement.

However, according to Minatoya, the judge said he would not rule on another motion to suppress evidence, because he has a conflict of interest.

Minatoya wants Masuoka’s ruling on Balgos’ statement reconsidered before Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Watanabe.

A hearing on the reconsideration motion is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 6, before Masuoka.

According to court papers, Balgos, 57, was indicted in January on two counts, for first-degree promotion of methamphetamine, and for having drug paraphernalia.

The grand-jury indictment was the result of a search that was done on July 28, 2003, at Balgos’ house in Lihu’e.

Balgos was arraigned on March 8 this year before Masuoka. According to court papers, Balgos was arrested at Lihu’e Airport the day before.

Balgos was released after posting $100,000 bail.

In April, Balgos asked Masuoka for permission go to the Philippines for 20 days. Masuoka denied the travel request.

In May, Judge Masuoka held a hearing on the two motions, to find out if Balgos voluntarily made a statement at KPD head-quarters in Lihu’e, and on the motion to suppress evidence seized as a result of a search warrant at Balgos’ house.

According to court papers, KPD officers interviewed Balgos in the early-morning hours after the day his house was searched.

According to court documents, Balgos was not indicted until January, and that he, his wife and daughter were held for about 15 hours while their house was being searched.

The search started when about 20 KPD officers descended on the defendant’s house at about 5:08 in the morning. After making an announcement to open the door, the officers used a ram to break down the front door, according to court documents.

According to court papers, two incendiary devices, called noise-flash diversion devices, were set off. The devices sound like bombs exploding, and give off a long flash of fire.

The officers entered the house, where they went to the master bedroom. They used automatic rifles that had lights attached to them to find Balgos and his wife.

They also went to the defendant’s daughter’s bedroom, broke down the door, and found a cowering 17-year-old in bed, according to court papers.

According to court documents, about 177.6 grams of crystal methamphetamine, or ice, was found, in 71 plastic bags.

Balgos’ jury trial is scheduled to begin on Jan. 17, 2006.


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