Drug Charges Dismissed Against Former Cop - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Drug Charges Dismissed Against Former Cop

Rogelio Mata and Estela McGovern Rogelio Mata and Estela McGovern
Sgt. Brian West Sgt. Brian West
Judge Steven Alm Judge Steven Alm

by Minna Sugimoto

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- Yet another shocking twist in the drug trial of a former Honolulu police officer. Rogelio Mata is now a free man, after possible misconduct by a current officer.

Defense attorneys are accusing a Honolulu police sergeant of tampering with Mata's jury. KHNL News 8's Minna Sugimoto was the only reporter to speak with Mata, as he was set free.

As a former cop and as a convicted criminal, Rogelio Mata knows the trial process well. But even he couldn't predict this.

"I want to tell you that you have rights under the Constitution. You have the right to remain silent," Circuit Judge Steven Alm told Honolulu Police Sergeant Brian West.

The cloud of suspicion shifts, as West is accused of tampering with Mata's jury.

"Once you read me my rights, my training says to be quiet and get an attorney," West said from the witness stand.

Mata and co-defendant Estela McGovern are charged with drug offenses. Officers stormed a multi-unit house on Kamehameha IV Road last November, and stumbled upon their ex-colleague in one of the bedrooms.

"I just came to see my girlfriend to give her beer," Mata said at the time of his arrest.

His trial came to a screeching halt Wednesday. During a break, Sergeant West allegedly made inappropriate comments about Mata's co-defendant in the presence of jurors.

"I stayed in front of the courtroom doors and indicated to him that he couldn't come in by my body language, I thought," Seth Weaver, court clerk, said. "And then he said, 'When can I serve her with a TRO?'"

The judge immediately declared a mistrial. But defense attorneys suggested the sergeant's actions were intentional, and for a remedy to be simply a mistrial is not sufficient. The judge agreed.

"The charges are dismissed. Bail is set aside, or ordered returned. You are both free from court,"

Alm said. "Thank you," Mata said to his public defender, while choking back tears.

So six months after his arrest, Mata takes his first steps as a free man.

"I'm going to go back to the prison and pick up my stuff. They get all my stuff back there," Mata said. "But I'd rather walk down there than get them to take me down. I'm real happy for everything."

Prosecutors have the option of re-filing charges against the pair. No word yet on whether Sergeant West will face any criminal charges.