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Attorney for Honolulu police officer acquitted in 1980s says prosecutors in Sykap case face ‘high bar’

Published: Jun. 28, 2021 at 5:44 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 29, 2021 at 10:10 AM HST

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Attorney Judith Pavey says it is risky to charge a police officer with an on-duty shooting. She knows better than most.

Pavey helped defend a Honolulu police officer in the 1980s.

Arthur Freedle was indicted for manslaughter. He shot and killed 19-year-old Aaron Yong Kim at Diamond Head Beach Park. Freedle said he and the boy struggled over his gun when the gun went off.

Freedle was eventually acquitted.

Arthur Freedle with his attorneys David Schutter and Judith Pavey
Arthur Freedle with his attorneys David Schutter and Judith Pavey(None)

Pavey and others are reflecting on the Freedle case as the city prosecutor moves forward with murder and attempted murder charges against three Honolulu police officers in the fatal shooting of a teen.

Pavey says such cases are rare for good reason.

“The jury recognizing how difficult the job of a police officer and giving them the benefit of the doubt, it’s a very high bar. The proof bar is beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Pavey.

“That’s a tough standard.”

Former Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Peter Carlisle agreed.

“People have a lot of trust and confidence in police officers so you have to keep that as part of the equation,” Carlisle said.

He said he reviewed police shootings during his time in the city Prosecutor’s Office but never found enough to charge an officer.

He added that he was surprised that current city Prosecutor Steve Alm charged officers Geoffrey Thom, Zackary Ah Nee and Christopher Fredeluces for the April 5 shooting death of 16-year old Iremamber Sykap after a grand jury declined to indict them.

Geoffrey Thom, Zackary Ah Nee and Christopher Fredeluces appeared in person before a District...
Geoffrey Thom, Zackary Ah Nee and Christopher Fredeluces appeared in person before a District Court judge.

“Very unusual,” Carlisle said.

But unlike when Freedle was tried, there is a lot more evidence now available for both sides. That includes officer body cameras, surveillance and cell phone videos.

Pavey said that could play a significant role in the decision to move forward and charge a police officer. ”It’s obviously still pretty rare, it’s only recently that we’ve seen a change in approach by prosecutors,” she said.

Freedle remained on the police force after the acquittal and he retired in 1987.

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