HPD officer not guilty in overtime pay scandal

HPD officer Leighton Kato
HPD officer Leighton Kato

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A circuit court jury Thursday found a Honolulu police officer innocent of charges that he filed a false police report so his supervisor could collect extra overtime pay.

On the witness stand Leighton Kato denied any wrongdoing in the report he filed following a DUI checkpoint in November 2009.

"When you put Sgt. Zoller's name in your report that night, were you trying to help Sgt. Zoller obtain overtime pay he was not entitled to?" asked defense attorney Thomas Otake.

"Absolutely not," Kato answered.

Prosecutors had accused him of writing that his supervisor Sgt. Duke Zoller worked a roadblock on Nimitz highway when he wasn't there.

Kato testified sergeants are stationed at the head of checkpoints with officers down the line so it's tough to tell who's who.

"The lighting condition, obviously it's at night. There's a lot of flares in the road and headlights in your eyes. It's basically a chaotic, fluid situation," he said.

Kato said he filled in Zoller's name on the report based on a follow-up report by another sergeant that said Zoller was at the check point.

Authorities charged seven officers in the alleged overtime abuse case. They're all members of HPD's DUI unit.

The jury took fifteen minutes to deliberate the case before returning the not guilty verdict.

Otake said Kato should have never been charged.

"To charge an entire unit was unfair. In doing so an innocent man had to stand trial for a crime he did not commit," he said. "He's a good man and a good officer."

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