Libel lawsuit dismissed; attorney plans to appeal

LIHU’E — A lawsuit filed against a former Kaua’i Police Department chief, various officers, Honolulu magazine and The Garden Island, was dismissed by Fifth Circuit Court Judge Kathleen N.A. Watanabe last week.

Waldorf Roy Wilson II’s defamation, slander and libel lawsuit, in which he claimed KPD officers allegedly named him as a “Kaua’i serial killer” in 2000, was dismissed by Fifth Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Watanabe.

The complaint was dismissed because Wilson’s attorney, Richard Wurdeman, did not come up with reasons why the case should proceed, according to Watanabe. Watanabe also dismissed the case because it impacted the defendant officers’ personal lives, she said.

Wurdeman said he would file an appeal.

David Minkin, outside counsel representing the County of Kaua’i employees and former employees named in the suit, said he was pleased with Watanabe’s ruling.

“The court did a thorough evaluation of the history and the evidence, and on behalf of the county and the police officers, the court made the right decision,” said Minkin.

“The judge made her ruling,” Wurdeman said. “We have an appropriate form to deal with this ruling, and we intend to proceed with that, and this is to the appellate courts,” he said.

The lawsuit stems from KPD officers’ investigation of attacks on three women, two of whom were raped and murdered. A third survived after being beaten and stabbed.

The attacks sent shock waves across Kaua’i, especially among women on the Westside, where the attacks took place.

Wilson claimed that he was named as the suspect in a police investigation into the attacks. Wilson alleged that his name and photograph were provided by KPD officers to reporters with KHNL Channel 8. In a Sept. 13, 2000, broadcast, Wilson’s photograph and name were shown on the air.

According to the lawsuit, Honolulu magazine’s August 2001 edition included an article about the “Kaua’i serial killer,” and made references to the Channel 8 broadcast.

An article about a suspect ran in January 2002 edition of The Garden Island, but it did not name that suspect.

The case was filed Sept. 11, 2002, in Fifth Circuit Court. County attorneys asked for dismissal because the history of the lawsuit showed that Wilson engaged in a pattern of delay, and failed to actively litigate his case since he filed his complaint, and county defendants and other county employees were prejudiced by the delay.

The case was moved out of Circuit Court and into the state Judiciary’s Court Annexed Arbitration Program. Wurdeman wanted the case to be moved back into the court system.

Wurdeman argued that moving the case out of the program and back into the court system would have allowed for depositions to be taken from Channel 8 news reporters.

“The issues in this case go outside of the program. The case does not belong there,” Wurdeman said. “Our hands are tied. There is nothing we can do at this point,” said Wurdeman.

The case impacted the personal lives of former and current KPD officers named in the suit, Minkin said. Defendants who applied for loans were being asked about the case, he said.

Watanabe pointed out that the defendants were being prejudiced against.

Wurdeman said that if Watanabe was not inclined to remove the case from the program, then an alternative would be to ask for a stay to find out if his client is still a focus of a police investigation.

“We don’t know what they have on my client, and what they smeared the media with,” said Wurdeman.

Watanabe indicated that KPD officers and former officers have been strung along too long, and dismissed the case.

In April 2000, KPD officers began an investigation after the body of Lisa Bissell was found near Polihale State Park. She had been raped and murdered. The next month, another woman was found beaten and stabbed in the yard of a Kekaha home. She survived the attack, but could not identify her alleged assailant. In August 2000, the body of Daren Singer, of Maui, was found near Pakala Point. Camping alone on private property, she had been raped and murdered.

On or about Sept. 12, 2000, Wilson claimed in his lawsuit that KPD officers placed him under surveillance.

Wilson claimed in his lawsuit that no credible evidence linked him to the attacks, and that DNA samples taken to link him to the attacks were inconclusive when tested.

Wilson also claimed that the surviving victim failed to pick him out as her attacker in a late 2000 Honolulu Police Department lineup.

The sexual assault and homicide cases remain unsolved and under investigation by KPD officers, since there is no statute of limitation for the offense of murder, according to a county spokesperson.


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