Settlement reached in alleged 2012 police brutality, cover-up case
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The city is preparing to settle a lawsuit over the controversial arrest of a man from more than five years ago.
That's after two judges suspected the Honolulu Police Department wasn't forthcoming in what it knew about the case.
Cellphone video obtained by Hawaii News Now captured the arrest of Jonah Kaahu on the North Shore in 2012.
Kaahu was reportedly trying to defend his coworker in Haleiwa who had reportedly been challenged to a fight. But when police arrived, Kaahu ran.
"Someone yelled out, 'Jonah why are you running? You're a hero!' He stopped and got tackled to the ground…and they proceeded to arrest him in a rather brutal way," said Kaahu's former attorney Myles Breiner.
Breiner withdrew from Kaahu's case because of a conflict of interest after representing former HPD Chief Louis Kealoha in a criminal corruption case.
Kaahu was charged with terroristic threatening, assault against a police officer and criminal property damage. But Circuit Court Judge Ed Kubo threw the case out in 2013 because of police misconduct.
"One officer appears to take his handcuffs and uses them as brass knuckles and was beating Mr. Kaahu in the back of his head as he was pounding his head also to the pavement. Another officer was kneeing him in the groin and into his chest, and a third officer took out his pepper spray and emptied it to his face," Breiner said.
The Hauula man sued the Honolulu Police Department over the use of excessive force and claims the department withheld key evidence that would have kept him out of jail.
Rather than face a potentially expensive trial, both sides reached a settlement Tuesday morning.
Breiner said the case was most likely settled because of a judge's ruling from last month.
"I'm very happy for the Kaahus. Their attorney did an excellent job. I applaud the effort that he made and more importantly, Judge Gillmor did a superb job in reaching a conclusion that allowed the city and the plaintiffs to reach a reasonable settlement," said Breiner.
In the ruling, Gillmor said there is evidence the city had knowledge that two of the officers involved in Kaahu's arrest had a history of inappropriate behavior while on duty.
Judge Kubo was also quoted in Gillmor's ruling stating: "There's a smell here, I can't quite say it stinks, but there's a smell…I repeatedly asked for information and now I'm surprised that the most important information that should have been given to me I didn't have the opportunity to see and that includes the videotapes…something stinks."
Attorney Victor Bakke, who has successfully sued HPD, said settlements aren't always the best outcome.
"The people don't get their day in court so to speak...we never get to say those cops were wrong and don't do it again," Bakke said. "Unless there's a trial, it kind of gets swept under the rug."
City council's approval on the settlement is scheduled for March 28th. The terms of the settlement are confidential until after that.
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