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Judge to hear motion to dismiss case against 3 officers charged in teen’s fatal shooting

Published: Jul. 13, 2021 at 5:51 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A judge will decide next week if the case against three Honolulu police officers charged in the shooting death of a teen should be allowed to proceed.

The motion to dismiss will be argued on July 20 ― ahead of the preliminary hearing for Officers Geoffrey Thom, Zachary Ah Nee, and Christopher Fredeluces.

Thom is charged with second-degree murder for the April 5 shooting of 16-year-old Iremamber Sykap in McCully. Ah Nee and Fedeluces are charged with attempted second-degree murder.

In the filing, the attorneys for the officers say a state law prevents class A felonies from being charged without a grand jury indictment.

State Sen. Karl Rhoads, chair of the Judiciary committee, is very familiar with that statute.

“Class A felonies, because of the length of time that you can spend in jail, and murders and the real heavy duty crimes, still require a grand jury indictment,” said Rhoads.

The city Prosecutor’s Office presented evidence to a grand jury panel in the teen’s shooting, but jurors declined to indict the officers. So the officers were instead charged in a district court complaint.

The motion to dismiss, filed by Ah Nee’s attorney Tommy Otake, argues that charging by way of complaint and preliminary hearing after a “no bill” from the grand jury violates that law.

Rhoads said the consequences are too steep for a person convicted of a class A felony to be charged by complaint only. “It’s better to have someone, in addition to the prosecutor, looking at whether charging somebody in that circumstance is the right thing to do,” Rhoads said.

Attorney Victor Bakke agreed.

“I think it’s a novel argument because it hasn’t come up before and the only reason why it’s coming up now is because the prosecutors office is trying to do something outside the box,” Bakke said. “They’re trying to be creative because what they tried to do in the beginning with the grand jury did not work.”

Prosecutors will argue the complaint combined with the upcoming preliminary hearing to determine probable cause makes the process appropriate.

But Bakke said a judge deciding probable cause is still problematic.

If the judge rules next week to grant the motion to dismiss, it’s possible prosecutors could take the case to a different grand jury. There are currently three separate panels.

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