Forty-eight hours is all it took. Two days in September 2005 cost three Kaua‘i police officers with more than 47 combined years of experience in the department their careers.
The officers, Sgt. Wesley Perreira, Sgt. Lawrence Stem and Officer Channing Tada received felony convictions yesterday in the courtroom of 5th Circuit Judge Kathleen Watanabe.
Watanabe denied a motion for deferment and found all three men guilty of second-degree theft and tampering with government records, charges stemming from the failure to attend a training seminar on Maui in September 2005.
Perreira, Stem and Tada all received probation, were ordered to pay restitution and fines and required to provide community service.
In August 2006, the three police officers were indicted by a Kaua‘i Grand Jury on 13 counts of theft and tampering with a government record.
According to the Attorney General’s office, Perreira was indicted with one count of attempted theft in the second degree, one count of theft in the second degree and two counts of tampering with a government record. Stem was charged with two counts of theft in the second degree and three counts of tampering with a government record. Tada was charged with two counts of theft in the second degree and two counts of tampering with a government record.
The officers entered “no contest” pleas to second-degree theft and tampering with government records charges in February for not attending the training seminar.
The county- and federally-funded training seminar in 2005 was held from Sept. 13 through Sept. 15 on Maui, on the subject of marijuana eradication.
According to the state Attorney General’s office, the officers did not attend the two-day event. Instead, they used their time on Maui as a vacation, using more than $300 of state and county money from per diem checks.
The officers also altered attendance records from the event.
The three were on administrative leave with pay since Aug. 22, 2006, until the days they resigned this year.
According to Police Chief Darryl Perry, the officers were allowed to resign their positions in lieu of pending termination.
“All three were placed on administrative leave with pay by the previous administration up until the time of their resignation,” Perry said.
Perreira and Stem resigned in February of this year and Tada resigned in March.
As family and friends gathered in the courtroom yesterday, each defendant gave a statement to the judge and received their sentence one by one.
“I apologize to the men and women of the Kaua‘i Police Department and the Kaua‘i community for breaking a trust that they gave me when I became a police officer,” Perreira said in a quiet voice.
“I am very sorry for all the worrying and questions and the shame and dishonor brought to my wife and children.”
Perreira went on to say that he wished he could go back and change his decisions made during those days in Maui.
“To say I have learned from this is an understatement,” he said. “I accept responsibility for my decisions and will make sure I don’t make bad decisions in the future.”
In Stem’s statement, he apologized to Chief Darryl Perry and the Kaua‘i Police Department.
“I apologize to my wife and kids who have endured the most,” Stem said. “The life I have dreamed for them is no longer possible.”
Tada apologized to the court, the people and the county of Kaua‘i. He also apologized to his mother.
“I apologize for bringing bad publicity to the Kaua‘i Police Department,” Tada said. “I never wanted to be a burden to the community.”
When making her decision on how to sentence the officers, Watanabe said she had difficulty because of the exceptional careers each officer had. But she said she was troubled by the “continuous deception” of the officers to the county, community, co-workers and taxpayers.
Watanabe told the officers that their hard work and service to the department and the community did not go unnoticed by the court, and it wasn’t about what they did for the 48 hours while on Maui; it was about their subsequent actions after their return.
“The actions and crimes you committed were as police officers,” Watanabe said.
The day’s hearing was about moving on, Watanabe said.
“This is all about moving forward,” she said. “This is about bringing closure to the community finally. This community will move on, as will you.”
• Rachel Gehrlein, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or firstname.lastname@example.org.