HONOLULU (KHON2) — The four Honolulu Police Department officers charged in connection with a crash in Makaha were in court on Thursday, March 23, all pled not guilty. We asked a legal expert to explain the charges.
The four officers implicated are Joshua Nahulu, Erik Smith, Jake Bartolome and Robert Lewis. Nahulu is charged with collisions involving death or serious bodily injury. The other three face charges hindering prosecution and conspiracy.
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Court records said that in September 2021, the officers followed a white Honda sedan on Farrington Highway in an unannounced pursuit. Prosecutors said Nahulu was closest to the Honda when it veered off the highway and crashed. All six occupants were injured, some critically.
Prosecutors said the officers drove past the scene and then came back when they were dispatched and allegedly behaved as if they had no knowledge of what happened.
Defense attorney Megan Kau who is not involved in the case said prosecutors do not have to show proof that Nahulu knew that he caused a collision.
“The government just needs to prove that there was an accident, that the victim suffered substantial bodily injury and that the driver fled the scene without providing the required documentation such as insurance and driver’s license,” said Kau.
As for the other three officers, Kau said prosecutors need to prove that they tried to cover up the accident. An attorney for the victims said there is video showing the four officers at the scene before the crash.
“If there is video, it’s gonna be very difficult for those four officers to claim that they weren’t present at the underlying incident,” she said.
As to why it took a year and a half to charge the officers, Prosecutor Steve Alm said it is a complicated case which took time.
“So I know people get frustrated. What’s important is we get it right. And, then, do it the right way, get convictions and protect the community protect public safety,” he said.
Alm said it’s sad when people who are counted on to uphold the law get in trouble but they need to be treated like everyone else.
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“Nobody’s above the law. And, I think the public, you know, expects that, that if people break the law, they should be held to account for it, regardless of what their job is,” he said.
Trial is scheduled for May 22.