HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Authorities have launched a criminal investigation into whether a Maui police officer offered to throw a drunk driving trial for a woman who says he inappropriately contacted her just hours after she was booked ― sending text messages and calling her ― and pressuring her repeatedly to visit his house.
The woman fears retaliation and believes the officer looked up her phone number in the arrest report, and also knows where she lives.
Following questions about the case, the Maui Police Department released a statement Tuesday:
The Maui Police received information from Hawaii News Now regarding a potential abuse of authority within the Department. Following up on that information the Criminal Investigations Division was able to obtain text messages and voice recordings that support the allegations made against one of its officers.
“We want to assure everyone in our community that we have your safety in mind," said Maui Police Chief Tivoli Faaumu said, in the statement.
The offenses being investigated include attempted perjury, hindering prosecution and tampering with a witness. Authorities have not said if the officer has been taken off the streets or if he remains on regular duty.
The driver, who did not want her name used in the story, provided Hawaii News Now with text messages and an audio recording of a phone conversation to back up her story.
The first text was sent on July 25 at 1:58 p.m.
The woman was arrested at an intersection near Maui High School and Kahului Elementary earlier that morning, about 3:30 a.m. The police report names Brandon Saffeels, a four-year veteran of the force, as the arresting officer.
The text reads: “Hey. How u doing.”
The woman replies: “Hi who is this?”
The next text: “Brandon.”
The driver says Saffeels used to live next door to someone she knows, but that they never had any other connections so she was shocked that he was reaching out and believes he searched the arrest records for her contact information. “We’re not friends. We’re not acquaintances," she told HNN.
The single mom of three told him in the text string that she’s worried about her kids if she goes to jail.
The officer writes: “You will be (okay). You need a shoulder to cry on is all and someone to hold (you).”
He then invites her over to his house ― an invitation she ignores.
Over the next few days, Saffeels continues to contact her and invite her over.
He also offers to help her with the DUI case.
“I can completely f*** up that whole trial to where they will throw it out or find you in favor," reads one message.
“I was nervous, I was confused," the driver told HNN.
She said after three days of texting she told the officer to call her and he repeated the offer in the 13-minute recorded conversation.
The man in the recording says: “It’s all based off of my, my testimony. If I choose to stumble on my words, answer s*** incorrectly it’s not going to get me in trouble but it will discredit my statement.”
He also continues to pressure her to visit him.
"Anytime you wanna come over, like I work nights, but I am always working in Wailuku, Kahului so I just go home when I want,” he says.
The woman finally outright asks him in the recording, “Have you got bad intentions with me?”
The officer first says “No,” but then adds, “Maybe a little bit of bad intentions."
He continues, “Maybe just a small kine bad intentions.”
In the interview with HNN, the woman says the officer was trying to coerce her and she is worried that he will retaliate because she didn’t comply with his advances.
“It’s like you’re backed into this corner," she said. “You don’t know where to turn, you don’t know who to trust."
The woman ignored follow up text messages from the officer and he has not contacted her in weeks.
Legal expert Michael Green says the officer is taking advantage of a vulnerable woman, “She doesn’t know, 'Am I going to jail? ‘What’s going to happen to my children?’”
She has a hearing for the DUI coming up later this week she is in the process of retaining an attorney.
Here’s the full statement the Maui Police Department sent on this case:
On August 19, 2019 the Maui Police Department received information from Hawaii News Now reporter Lynn Kawano regarding a potential abuse of authority within the Department. Following up on that information the Criminal Investigations Division was able to obtain text messages and voice recordings that support the allegations made against one of its officers. “The Maui Police Department will always take seriously any accusations of misconduct by any of its officers. Upon being made aware of this situation we aggressively investigated this matter,” said Chief Tivoli Faaumu.
The offenses being investigated include Attempted Perjury, Hindering Prosecution in the First Degree and Tampering with a Witness.
The officer involved has been with the department for 4 years. Because this is an active investigation the name of the officer will not be released and we will not be able to offer anymore information. We ask that the victim in this incident contact us.
“We want to assure everyone in our community that we have your safety in mind. If you have a complaint against an officer we encourage you to contact that officer’s supervisor or you can also contact our Internal Affairs Division. If you are uncomfortable with speaking to us you can also file a complaint with the Maui Police Commission,” said Chief Tivoli Faaumu.