Details of cheating in KPD emerge at trial

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.

  1. Uncleaina August 21, 2019 6:10 am Reply

    How is the KPD test the slightest bit relevant to a hit and run? What a travesty of justice! How can a judge admit such evidence?? Hopefully justice will prevail here…anyway.

    1. LMat August 22, 2019 8:21 am Reply

      Because it could show that the first officer on the scene of the accident, Himongala, cheated to get the position he had as traffic safety officer and that he was actually incompetent and not qualified to do that job, which may have led to a bungling of the case.

      1. Roy Matsuyama August 22, 2019 1:32 pm Reply

        Nothing to do with case, except trying to cause doing with the jurors. I do hope these officers are held accountable. One name that came up was Lt. Takamura, I hope he gets investigated before he can retire… He probably doesn’t even remember, but he made my life a living hell in high school, almost daily he bullied me or tied to embarrass me in front of other students… If he did do wrong, I hope he is held accountable, and not just a slap on the wrist, like KPD is prone to do.

  2. Joe Public August 21, 2019 8:50 am Reply

    Why are these officers still on the force? The corruption continues to grow in KPD.

  3. Debra Kekaualua August 22, 2019 7:54 am Reply

    The pink bunny Rabbit keeps going and going and going as do the increasing victims, especially when it has to do with Integrity in reporting by KPD, which i know personally, it not only has no integrity, but has no jurisdiction. Perhaps the judge and judiciary should be investigated and absolutely the FBI needs to address the entire game plan. The plan that says “Game Over”. De-occupation is at the forefront and the intention is to tell the world what is fact to fallacy. Peace will prevail over lies maneuvers manipulations and Americanization is heading to REstoring Alcatraz, Kapu Aloha, Aloha Aina, and most of all Ku Kiaʻi Mauna. TMT opened the door and we are walking through no longer slaves to the corporate terrorist regime.

  4. harry oyama August 22, 2019 8:08 am Reply

    Kaua’i finest, to “Serve” and “Protect”. SHOP the police union makes sure all of its officers are not subject to random drug testing, nor can any officer be sued for criminal charges while on the force. You taxpayer’s pay for criminal cops, Just like former HPD police chief Louis Kealoha and his wife.

    1. Debra Kekaualua August 23, 2019 9:04 am Reply

      E’o Mr.O! Kealoha stolen mailbox IS the tip of the judiciopoliticomilitaro usa iceburg. Top to bottom RICO needs to investigate every moku and every top dog that has played us like the proverbial fiddle.

  5. Knowitall August 22, 2019 10:59 am Reply

    The Officer that was given the test answers and received a pay increase? This is theft, plain and simple. If he didn’t receive extra money I’d say it’s probably a simple act of misconduct. . .
    Also does anyone really buy the “I didn’t intend to help him on the test”. Sounds like someone is attempting to avoid “intent” a basis for most criminal convictions. What about the other Officer that didn’t get the answers?? He lost a pay increase and should receive backpay

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