Ex-Maui officer pleads not guilty in sex solicitation case

HONOLULU — A former Maui police officer pleaded not guilty Tuesday to an indictment accusing him of soliciting sex from a woman he pulled over for operating a vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant.

Before a grand jury indicted Brandon Saffeels last week, he was expected to plead guilty. However, the judge didn’t accept his plea because he was only willing to acknowledge that he offered to sabotage the woman’s DUI case and not that he expected sexual favors in return — as prosecutors alleged.

The indictment, which charges him with honest services wire fraud, says he used his police access to obtain the woman’s telephone number to solicit sex from her in exchange for giving false testimony at her trial.

“They really don’t talk about sex,” his defense attorney, Victor Bakke, said after the hearing. “The real problem in this case is they’re overcharging the case. They’re trying to prosecute him for some predatory type of behavior and that’s not what the charge is.”

According to the indictment one of Saffeels’ text messages to the woman said, “You will be ok. You need a shoulder to cry on is all and someone to hold u.”

Prosecutors said he instructed the woman to come to his house and in one text message said, “Just come. Bring clothes.”

The woman felt Saffeels’ statements to her were a bribe for sex, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mohammad Khatib said last week. She interpreted his statements as “sexual overtures,” he said.

Maui prosecutors dropped the DUI charge against the woman after portions of text messages and recorded phone conversations were published by the media, Khatib said.

Saffeels is scheduled to go trial in December. He is free on $25,000 bond and participated in the hearing by telephone from Maui.

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