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‘The judge got it wrong’: City prosecutor rails against lawmaker’s acquittal in DUI case

City Prosecutor Steve Alm says the acquittal of a state lawmaker in a high-profile drunk driving case won’t deter his office from holding people accountable.
Published: Jan. 10, 2022 at 3:07 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 11, 2022 at 4:24 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - City Prosecutor Steve Alm says the acquittal of a state lawmaker in a high-profile drunk driving case won’t deter his office from holding people accountable.

“No one is above the law,” said Alm, at a news conference Tuesday, during which he also laid out in detail the allegations against state Rep. Sharon Har and how he believes the judge erred in granting an acquittal in the case. “I was disappointed and I think the judge got it wrong,” he said.

Alm added: “I want the public to be reassured that HPD and Prosecutor’s Office will not be deterred by the outcome in this case. We will continue to work together and hold people accountable.”

Har was arrested in February 2021 after being pulled over for driving the wrong way on Beretania Street, a one-way thoroughfare that runs by the state Capitol building.

On Monday, Judge Steven Hartley said there was not enough evidence to convict her. He said some of the evidence that was presented and testimony from witnesses were also “inconsistent.”

Police body camera videos played in court showed the interaction between Har and the officers, who pulled her over after she left a restaurant and bar in Moiliili.

The same officers took the stand in her hearing Monday.

And Har’s attorney, Howard Luke, pointed out conflicting statements they made.

One officer is heard on the video telling Har that he smelled a slight odor of alcohol but when he testified in court he said the odor was very strong.

When questioned about it by Luke, the officer said on the stand that he was trying to be polite to Har but he insisted the odor was strong the whole time.

Har refused to take a breath or field sobriety test so there was no blood alcohol reading.

“Given all of those findings, given a review of the evidence that was presented at trial, specifically the video evidence, the court just does not have enough,” said Hartley.

Har previously blamed the incident on her decision to mix beer with cough medicine at a dinner after battling a respiratory illness for several weeks.

Luke admitted she was driving the wrong way on Beretania Street, but called it a mistake.

“She’s from Kapolei,” said Luke. “Her family, her work is all in Kapolei so she’s not as familiar with the backstreets of McCully and Moiliili areas.”

Alm said he did not believe that reasoning, “This is a busy area and it’s about six blocks from where she has been working for the last 15 years. So to say she’s unfamiliar with the area, seems unlikely,” he said.

Ahead of the acquittal, the judge announced that he was going to throw the case out anyway, citing a recent state Supreme Court ruling that could affect hundreds of DUI and other misdemeanor cases.

Alm said that ruling should have been brought up before trial started and therefore it was too late to get the dismissal.

Har is up for re-election later this year her license is suspended because she refused the field sobriety test.

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