Trial opens for HPD officer accused in overtime pay scandal

Leighton Kato
Leighton Kato

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A jury trial began Wednesday for a Honolulu police officer accused of filing a false police report so that his supervisor could fraudulently collect extra overtime pay.

Ofr. Leighton Kato, 37, is charged with tampering with a government record and two counts of theft. All three charges are misdemeanors.

Prosecutors say the defendant wrote in a police report that his supervisor, Sgt. Duke Zoller, was working with him at a DUI roadblock near the Honolulu International Airport on November 29, 2009, when, in fact, Zoller had the night off. The sergeant later received subpoenas for a DUI case stemming from the roadblock, and allegedly charged the city overtime for appearing at court.

"(Kato) did so by deception," Peter Marrack, deputy prosecutor, said. "He did this when he put the false information in the police report."

The defense told jurors that another supervisor, Sgt. Aaron Bernal, submitted a report to Kato saying that Zoller was present at the roadblock, and that Kato had no reason not to believe his superiors. Defense attorney Thomas Otake says a roadblock often involves many officers who come and go during the course of the operation.

The defendant has been with HPD for 10 years and with the Hawaii Army National Guard for 15 years.

"The government would have you believe he would risk throwing it all away to help not himself, be real clear about that, not himself, but to help a co-worker make some overtime pay," Otake said.

Zoller, Bernal and three other officers are set to go to trial later this month.

One co-defendant, Ofr. Brian Morris, pleaded guilty to record tampering in March and is scheduled to be sentenced in September.

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