LIHUE — More details emerged Tuesday about officers who conspired to cheat on a Kauai Police Department test, as a policeman involved in the reported scheme took the stand in the negligent homicide trial of a Kapaa man accused of killing a young woman in a hit-and-run accident.
Day five of Cody Safadago’s jury trial picked up where it left off last week, with the testimony of KPD officer Shawn Hanna. Hanna spent the first hour answering questions from Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Sean Van Demark about his reconstruction of a 2017 high-speed collision that resulted in the death of 19-year-old Kayla Huddy-Lemn.
Hanna led the KPD traffic safety section’s investigation into the crash, using 3-D imaging, measurements of the vehicle pathways and analysis of marks left on the asphalt to recreate the car crash. The extensive process involves a camera that rotates on an X and Y axis to build what Hanna described as a kind of “cloud” made by mapping “tens of millions” of spatial reference points at the scene.
Combining that data with extensive measurements of gouges in the roadway and the final resting place of the two vehicles involved, Hanna said he was able to determine that the Nissan pickup truck Safadago allegedly stole, swerved into oncoming traffic on Kuhio Highway near Coconut MarketPlace in Kapaa and ran head-on into Huddy-Lemn’s Mazda sedan at a “minimum speed of 88 miles an hour.”
But under cross-examination, Hanna may have provided testimony that could affect the credibility behind the police work leading to Safadago’s nine-count indictment — he is facing four felonies and a potential life sentence for manslaughter.
“I’m gonna ask you first about the misconduct,” Safadago’s lawyer, Emmanuel Guerrero, said as he began questioning Hanna Tuesday morning.
According to court documents in Safadago’s trial and another unrelated criminal case currently pending in Fifth Circuit Court, Hanna and several other KPD officers were investigated by the department’s internal affairs unit for conspiring to cheat on a test or covering up afterward. Hanna admitted last week that he gave another officer a copy of a test he was required to pass before joining the KPD’s traffic safety section.
The traffic safety section is a specialized unit in the department and its officers are better paid than those who staff many other positions in the KPD’s patrol services bureau. Officers working patrol beats or assigned to man the KPD’s holding cells often compete to join the traffic safety section when a new position becomes available.
Officer Joseph Himongala was admitted to the traffic safety section in 2015, when he got a perfect 100% on the entrance exam, beating out another officer who scored less than 50%, according to questions Hanna answered from the witness stand Tuesday.
Under cross-examination, Hanna admitted to bringing a copy of the exam to Himongala’s home to help him prepare for the test but said that the cheating was accidental.
“I wasn’t intent on going there, but that’s what happened,” Hanna testified. “My assignment was to assist him in preparing.”
Hanna said he normally only helps other officers with the test if they ask for it. He said Himongala never requested his assistance and said he neglected to provide the same service to another officer competing for the position.
That officer scored somewhere between 42% and 48% on the entrance exam, Guerrero said, reading to Hanna from a stack of KPD documents police were forced to turn over last month.
Details about the incident and ensuing internal investigation remain sparse. County officials have declined to comment on the issue, and although the judge presiding over Safadago’s case ordered police to turn over internal KPD records concerning the investigation, those documents remain unavailable to the public.
Three years after Himongala joined the traffic safety section, Hanna was confronted with allegations and admitted that he helped his fellow officer cheat. Both Himongala and Hanna have since been reassigned to other departments in the KPD. Hanna said he was temporarily moved to another position when the investigation began and was officially transferred out of the traffic safety section in May for unrelated reasons.
“Prior to this investigation did you voluntarily disclose your misconduct?” Guerrero said.
When Hanna said he hadn’t admitted anything before being approached by internal affairs, Guerrero followed up, asking, “So if you hadn’t been asked about it nobody would have known?”
At that point, the prosecution objected, both attorneys approached the judge’s bench for a brief conference and court was adjourned for lunch.
Much of the testimony provided by the state’s ongoing lineup of witnesses — prosecutors have now called 15 people to the stand and have three more scheduled before the end of the trial, which Van Demark said will probably conclude by the end of the week.
Guerrero is scheduled to present an oral argument in a separate case before the Hawaii Supreme Court today, so Safadago’s trial will not resume until Thursday morning, when prosecutors are expected to call two more KPD officers to testify.
Guerrero said he plans to call just one witness on his client’s behalf — a Utah man who purportedly told police he had seen four men standing around the truck Safadago allegedly crashed. During his cross-examination of Hanna, Guerrero asked why police never followed up with the witness or attempted to identify the four men he said were observed “arguing” and “yelling” in the vicinity of the stolen and wrecked vehicle.
Hanna said they were unable to identify the four men.