Violated couple may settle

The Kaua‘i County Council has deliberated on a proposed settlement in two lawsuits filed by an ‘Oma‘o couple alleging Kaua‘i Police Department officers brutalized the pair at their home during a search in March 2005.

The council discussed the matter during an executive session at the historic County Building Tuesday, but the amount of the proposed settlements is not being disclosed.

“There is an order for confidentiality,” said Honolulu attorney Michael Jay Green, who represented Sharon and William McCulley. “The case is settled subject to the approval by the council. I think everyone is pleased with the outcome.”

The McCulleys filed a lawsuit in Fifth Circuit Court alleging officers Damien Mendiola and Scott Kaui had no specific search warrant, had no probable cause to believe a box of marijuana was in the home and had failed to use reasonable efforts to ensure they had entered the right house.

The McCulleys also filed a lawsuit against the officers and Kaua‘i County in the U.S. District Court alleging the officers deprived them of their constitutional rights to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

The McCulleys also alleged Kaua‘i County failed to adopt policies to ensure its officers respect the constitutional rights of residents and fostered a culture in which police officers were deliberately indifferent to those rights.

The county maintains police officers are trained to approach crime situations with professionalism.

The settlement announcement comes less than a year after the council approved up to $100,000 to hire outside counsel to represent the county in the matter.

According to the lawsuits, the officers and others were tracking a box allegedly containing marijuana and a transmitter mailed from the Mainland to Lihu‘e.

According to court documents, the box sent from California contained 11 pounds of marijuana and was primed to trigger an alarm when opened.

Court records state David Hibbitt picked up the box at the Koloa post office, drove to Kaumuali‘i Highway in a Toyota truck and was followed by police vehicles.

Hibbitt drove onto a small private road that led to seven different homes on a dead-end road.

The officers went onto the road and entered the McCulley home when the signal in the box was triggered, even though the signal was triggered in a home other than the McCulley’s, the lawsuit said.

The couple claimed the officers did not bother to locate the truck they had been tracking and the truck was not anywhere near their home when the raid began.

The lawsuit states Mendiola grabbed Sharon McCulley, threw her to the floor and forced her grandchild to lay beside her while prone on the floor.

Mendiola used vulgar language as McCulley began to cry, the lawsuit states.

Mendiola also pressed a gun against her head, leaving a circular mark, Sharon McCulley alleges.

At the time, her husband, who is disabled and has a nerve disorder, stood in the kitchen with a walker, wearing a leg brace, the lawsuit states.

William McCulley has an implanted, electronic-controlled shocking device to alleviate pain in his spinal column, and it emitted repeated electric shocks after Kaui slammed him to the floor, leaving the elderly McCulley in uncontrolled convulsions on the floor.

The couple claim they are victims of mistaken identity. Police found the box in another home in ‘Oma‘o occupied by three men, J Robertson, managing director of Ho‘ike Kauai Community Television, Hibbitt and Nathan Prather.

Robertson later admitted having a small amount of marijuana in the house, and pleaded guilty to third-degree promotion of a detrimental drug.

Hibbitt pleaded guilty to first-degree promotion of a detrimental drug and Prather pleaded guilty to third-degree promotion of a detrimental drug.

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