A question of conflicts

LIHUE — With two cases involving Kauai police officers being investigated, a conflict of interest in one prompted Kauai County Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar to turn it over to the state Attorney General.

“It’s not just about the severity of the charge or the people involved. It has to do with all the facts of the case,” Kollar said. “Because those cases are still pending, I can’t really get into the details of those cases.”

Kollar is referring to cases involving KPD Sgt. Colin Nesbitt, who was charged with operating a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant and inattention to driving on May 23, and the death of 19-year-old Michael Kocher, Jr., who was killed Jan. 5 when he was struck first by a vehicle driven by a resident, and then again by a responding officer.

Nesbitt’s case was handed to the state’s Attorney General, Kollar said.

The Kocher case is being handled by the county prosecutor’s office. There have been no charges.

Kollar could not give specifics as to why there was a conflict of interest involving Nesbitt and the Kauai County prosecuting office.

“It could be a situation if somebody is related to somebody in our office or it could be literally any kind of different situation,” he said. “A lot of times it would come up if somebody’s got a close family member who works here or somebody that would be a witness of the case. It’s not necessarily because it’s (an officer).”

Joshua Wisch, special assistant to the Attorney General, said cases with declared conflict of interest from prosecutors statewide are generally accepted.

“The short answer on this one is that when we are asked to assist with a case because of a conflict, we generally defer to the decisions of the respective prosecutor’s office and accept their declaration that there is a conflict,” he wrote in an email Wednesday.

Kollar said when dealing with cases, every situation is different.

“It’s an issue that can come up at any point, really,” he said. “But when it comes up, we really make the determination at that time.”

In some scenarios, Kollar said, his office finds out about a conflict of interest at a later date.

“Sometimes you don’t find out until later that there might be a conflict because you might find out that this witness was related to somebody or something like that,” he said.

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