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Long-delayed cases dismissed

LIHUE — At least five separate criminal cases on Kauai have been dismissed in the last month because police and prosecutors failed to pursue charges in a timely manner.

Since July 1, Fifth Circuit Court judges have thrown out a dozen charges — half of them felonies — due to delays caused by police failing to serve warrants for months on end or by county prosecutors neglecting to bring cases to trial within the legally allotted amount of time.

Fifth Circuit Chief Judge Randal Valenciano felt compelled to address the matter during a recent court session:

“The problem here is what has been, and continues to be, an issue with the police department — they don’t track their efforts to serve warrants,” Valenciano said before granting a motion to dismiss charges against an Anahola woman accused of injuring an 8-year-old child in a car accident while driving under the influence of drugs.

“Part of the failure is a lack of records,” Valenciano said a half-hour later, when he was forced to toss out yet another case — this one involved a Kilauea man facing multiple felony charges related to identity theft and heroin and methamphetamine possession — for essentially the same reason.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Ramsey Ross admitted that his office failed to bring the case to trial within the six-month period required by law. But in a motion addressing the unnecessary delay caused by police, Ross said that the 190 days it took for Kauai Police Department officers to execute the warrant was not long enough to infringe upon the man’s right to a fair trial.

“The state has no way to ascertain whether defendant was available for service while the bench warrants was outstanding or whether defendant intentionally avoided service,” Ross wrote in a July 19 motion, adding that because the man was “reportedly homeless,” police officers “might not be able to locate him if they tried.”

According to state Deputy Public Defender Melinda Mendes, her client was not actually homeless at all, and the reason it took six months to serve the warrant was because police never tried to track him down.

“If you bother to even knock on the door — Kauai is a very small island — they would have found him easily,” she said during Thursday’s hearing.

Mendes argued that the Prosecuting Attorney’s office was also at fault, claiming that on top of the anxiety and distress she said her client suffered during the year he spent in limbo prior to his arrest, he was forced to sit in jail for nearly three months because prosecutors were not proactively pursuing the case.

“They have the case. They throw it in a file and ignore it,” Mendes said during the July 25 hearing. “Six months go by, and they don’t even bother.”

The two cases dismissed on July 25 were not unique. At least three other people have had charges against them dropped for what those in the legal profession refer to as “want of prosecution.”

On July 16, charges against Dane Woodworth, a man accused of assault and breaking into a car, were dismissed after his public defender filed a memo arguing that “the state’s interests in pursuing a case in which a bench warrant was outstanding for over five years are far outweighed by fundamental fairness to (the) defendant and the orderly functioning of our courts.”

A week before that, Fifth Circuit Judge Kathleen Watanabe threw out a felony case involving a Waimea man prosecutors tried to arraign nearly two years after he allegedly broke into a woman’s home.

“It took them about 16 months to arrest my client,” Kaleb Libre-Palacio’s court-appointed attorney said during a July 8 hearing, arguing that the state’s attorneys “failed miserably” in their attempts to prosecute the case. Libre-Palacio was inadvertently notified of the charges a year and a half after a warrant was issued for his arrest, when police stopped him on the street and asked for identification.

The first case in July to get thrown out due to slow prosecution was Stephen Emayo’s. His attorney came to court on July 1 ready to argue for dismissal on the grounds that the prosecuting attorney had already violated her client’s rights on multiple occasions, and was, in any case, almost assuredly unable to produce a complaining witness.

But when the case was called, the prosecutor wasn’t ready to proceed and asked the judge for a continuance, noting that the time limit was expiring that day.

“This has been an interesting series of events,” Watanabe said. Before terminating the case, Watanabe described a series of motions filed by the prosecutor to delay or modify the case, which she said were “quite disconcerting.”

“We will simply refile the case,” Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar said in an email responding to questions about the recent spate of dismissals. His comment was specifically in reference to a case that was dismissed without prejudice, a stipulation that allows prosecutors to start the case again and file identical charges based on the same allegations.

Four of the cases and half of the charges that were thrown out last month were dismissed with prejudice, meaning the alleged crimes can never be prosecuted. Whether to dismiss a case with or without prejudice is left to the discretion of the judge, who bases the decision on several factors.

“I have to balance the interests of the state with fairness to the defendant, with the added ingredient of the orderly function of the court,” Valenciano said, explaining his ruling in one case dismissed without prejudice.

Kollar said he intends to reinstate the felony charge,

Kollar sent the following statement explaining some of the potential reasons a case may be delayed from the perspective of law enforcement:

“Cases involving traffic crashes take a long time to investigate by their very nature. There is a lot of reconstruction that needs to be done, recall notices reviewed, service records pulled, toxicology/lab results to wait for, etc. It is not uncommon for a thorough investigation, in any jurisdiction, to take more than a year – although KPD has dramatically reduced that time in recent years.

“Typically, it will be a 3-6 month window for the investigation to be completed. Additionally, and again, because of the nature of these cases, a victim may not be able to participate in prosecution for months after the incident takes place. Because the severity of an injury is an element of the case, that can also result in further delays.”

According to KPD Assistant Chief Bryson Ponce, the problem with their records began when the department transitioned to an electronic database used to manage and issue warrants.

“This new system eliminated the hard copy paper warrants and service control forms that KPD used in the past to manually write down and track service attempts for outstanding warrants,” Ponce said via email last week. “Currently, KPD is looking at other potential avenues to track attempts for service.”

Ponce went on to point out that the issue has been exacerbated by a shortage of officers in the department, a problem that has grown increasingly severe in recent years.

“KPD is doing its best to serve warrants as quickly as possible with the resources available,” he said. “Although we are experiencing a staffing shortage of nearly 20 vacant sworn officer positions, KPD has served 692 warrants, or about 80 percent, out of the 862 warrants issued by the courts this year.”

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Caleb Loehrer, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or cloehrer@thegardenisland.com.

5 Comments
  1. Wally Roberts August 4, 2019 2:13 am Reply

    Can’t blame the courts. The county’s administration of criminal justice needs some major improvements instead of excuses.


  2. Talented August 4, 2019 4:34 am Reply

    Talented employees to address and attract the best and most qualified individuals to serve the county of Kauai and the state of Hawaii.

    This is what they said to acquire two pay raises in one year and this is what the people of Kauai get?

    Don’t the PA have a new Drug Nuance Abatement Unit that is federally funded? Looks like that’s another AUDIT of wasted money like all GOV and non profit depts on Kauai.

    Kauai DLNR is also facing fraud, waste, and abuse with cooking the books just like the County of Kauai has been doing for decades and especially flagrant during the Carvalho years.

    It’s a shame when you have these public officials and agencies on Kauai that publicly speak about their great efforts in identifying and finding solutions on kauai’s many epidemics.

    The problem is public corruption on Kauai is OUT of CONTROL.

    The bike path phony multimodal transportation route that cost over $100,000,000, the $10,000,000 waste on rice st and hardy st., KFD gas theft ring and spiking for retirement, KPD phony overtime that cost millions???? Remember the Korn case where they were in the area collecting overtime while he continued to sexually assault two other females and one being a minor?, the county employees not filing sick and leave theft ring as well as millions missing?, the temp bridge in wailua that cost 50-100 million, the 5 year Kaumualii milk federal dollars highway project., the Kauai Independent Food Bank theft of nearly $1,000,000 with phony nepotism jobs, and many other examples of the wild Wild West of Kauai gets their moniker from.

    Maybe if KPD would have disbanded their Kealoha like secret police unit that targeted the very person who identified these crimes to the federal government. Yes KPD and the PA conspired like the Kealoha’s in a huge public corruption to attack and defame the very person who also identified many drug rings and phony drug front businesses. Identified the Shapiro brothers pill mill, the Hanamaulu 7lb Meth bust, the Koloa to kapahi Meth ring, the heroin rings, and drug mules through air and water.

    The person did all this and then some and KPD, DLNR, PA and others targeted that person. Why? Well you have to ask these people because there’s so much evidence to get these people federally charged with public corruption that Kauai has to ask why is the federal gov holding back when they did this to a much smaller scale with the Kealoha’s.

    This also proved that there is truth to what people said about Larry Mehau and his connections. Look it and read all about it. It’s an interesting read and he tried to take out the same person all the depts targeted and wasted tax payers monies with the secret unit that targeted an individual that did what they could never do. Not even the Feds could do what that person did on Kauai without that persons help.

    It’s probably one of The greatest stories that only a few know about but many participated in.

    It’s better than the Charles Marshland Jr. story.


  3. ruthann jones August 4, 2019 1:10 pm Reply

    yet more evidence of a worthless and possibly corrupt KPD!


  4. Vegreef August 6, 2019 6:30 pm Reply

    Who is this whistleblower?


  5. Clifste October 1, 2019 1:29 am Reply

    do What most KPD and currupt officers do and file a complaint! This way you are not a whistle blower and a smart person who supports trumps family at KPD.

    Just google federal intelligence public documents released. Stating the radical conspiracy theorists who’s real conspiracy pisses top American officals off. Referring to the mass terror shooters getting harassed to point of hopelessness targeting them for big ballS syndrome.

    Also Vegas mandalay shooter Saudi royals testing out there brand new death choppers! Worst shooting in American history!? I heard trump was front seat snacking on a bag of “pop” corn watching his Saudi prince happy with a kiss on his shoulder.

    Or Dallas gunman wait that’s too obvious. All people victim to a targeted individuals protocol abusing and harassment until person snaps and blame mental illness if any signs of survival mulch. All these terroristic attacks with no motive? Anyone not susceptible mind set is in for a treat. I have been threw the worst and if I like above question state and signs of lower self worth or decreased self esteem from the lack of understanding of why my family was involved in drug trafficing and got death treats and said help!! I’d be telling myself I’m smart by reporting the corruption for a sense of security and safety I’m asking to be called a real conspiracy radical telling the public I just wanted to make everyone happy! I’m just saying hey ask any person what’s the issue and they say police corruption. But actually it’s MR boss man training to place public scrutiny at top priority and best way to gain public trust is create a sense of ergency


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