Council weighs $50K for officer’s defense

LIHUE — The Kauai County Council will discuss today a request from the county attorney to authorize an initial payment of up to $50,000 to retain special counsel to defend a Kauai police officer charged with negligent homicide in a pedestrian death.

On Jan. 3, 19-year-old Michael Kocher Jr. was struck by a car while walking on the roadway of Kaumualii Highway after sunset. Kocher, of Hanapepe, survived the first hit with injuries that were not life threatening, but he was then run over by the responding officer, according to attorney Aaron Creps, who is representing the Kocher family.

The responding officer, Irvin Magayanes, was arrested Aug. 13 after more than seven months of investigation and charged with one count of second-degree negligent homicide, which is a Class C felony. If convicted, Magayanes faces up to five years in prison.

Under state law, the county is obligated to pay for Magayanes’ criminal defense if he was acting in his official capacity at the time of the incident.

Because that determination had not yet been formally made prior to Magayanes’ first appearance in court Aug. 25, he obtained personal legal counsel to represent him, and will need to be reimbursed for the expense. The county will also need to authorize funding to retain special counsel to represent Magayanes in his criminal case.

The Police Commission’s determination on whether Magayanes operated within the scope of his job duties is expected to be announced at next month’s Police Commission meeting, according to Kauai County spokeswoman Sarah Blane, who also said the $50,000 request to retain special counsel is standard. She added the county could provide Magayanes legal counsel in a civil lawsuit as well.

The council will discuss the matter in an executive session that is closed to the public and media.

Magayanes joined the Kauai Police Department in 2013. The officer had been previously assigned to administrative duty pending the outcome of the investigation. Following his arrest, his police powers were revoked. He will continue to work as a civilian for KPD pending the result of court proceedings.

The council will also today vote on whether to put a proposal to amend the county charter by repealing term limits on the 2016 election ballot.

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Ryan Kazmirzack, government reporter, can be reached at 245-0428.

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