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Saturday, November 24, 2001



Panel lists Freitas’
charges

The attorney for the Kauai police
chief insists he be reinstated


By Anthony Sommer
tsommer@starbulletin.com

LIHUE >> More than three months after suspending Kauai Police Chief George Freitas, the Police Commission adopted a list of allegations against him yesterday ranging from hindering prosecution to yelling too loudly at one of his department heads.

The commission said it will conduct a hearing on the allegations, although it was not clear how quickly that would occur.

At the same time, Freitas' attorney Margery Bronster, former state attorney general, appeared to lay the groundwork for a lawsuit against the county. Bronster insisted Freitas be reinstated immediately, and the Police Commission refused.

Bronster accused the commission yesterday of numerous violations of both the county charter and its own rules in conducting the investigation, "causing him an enormous amount of personal dismay, embarrassment and public humiliation."

The complaints were filed in late July by Lt. Alvin Seta and Inspector Mel Morris. The Police Commission voted on Aug. 10 to place Freitas on involuntary leave with pay, and a month later brought in John Ko, a Honolulu Police Commission investigator.

Ko spent more than two months questioning more than 150 department employees while living in a room at a major resort.

The county has refused to give the County Council information about the costs and why he questioned so many people.

The most serious charge against Freitas involves officer Nelson Gabriel, who is awaiting a verdict on his September trial without a jury on felony allegations he sexually molested a female relative. Gabriel also has been charged with misdemeanor counts of sexual harassment involving a police dispatcher.

The hindering-prosecution charge alleges that before Gabriel's trial, county prosecutors sent a request through the chief's office that Gabriel's wife, who has supported Gabriel throughout the case, be re-interviewed by detectives.

The charge against Freitas alleges that the request never reached detectives.

Bronster said it does not charge him directly with intentionally ignoring it.

"I did not hinder any investigation. Am I being charged with not being an effective postal service by not forwarding some memo on?" Freitas asked after yesterday's meeting.

Gabriel's wife testified on his behalf, repeating what many witnesses told Judge George Masuoka: The victim was a chronic liar with a long history of making serious allegations about people who angered her.

Another potentially serious charge mentioned in general terms in the letter given Freitas when he was first suspended was absent from the list considered by the commission yesterday.

It involved an alleged refusal by Freitas to investigate allegations that Gabriel harassed a dispatcher. The dispatcher never filed a sexual harassment complaint; she only asked for an assignment to another shift. One of her supervisors apparently filed the complaint against Gabriel.

Freitas has said repeatedly that he handled the situation after consultation with the County Attorney's Office. Since a criminal investigation already had been started, he said he was required to hold off an any administrative action until the criminal case was resolved.

"If they (the Police Commission) had asked me, I would have told them, but they have refused for months to tell me what I was accused of," Freitas said.

The dispatcher's attorney, Daniel Hempey, supported Freitas.

"My client just wants her privacy," he said after yesterday's meeting. "The chief just tried to help her maintain it."

The other allegations the commission voted to send to a hearing included:

>> Freitas was rude to an officer. The officer, at a department meeting, apparently violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by mentioning a medical condition suffered by a fellow officer. When he called the chief to find out whether his job was in jeopardy, Freitas allegedly hung up on him.

>> On July 21, Freitas improperly transported a civilian, the chief's girlfriend, in his unmarked police car for nonpolice purposes. The commission threw out two unrelated allegations that on the same date he and his girlfriend used his police car to shop for a home and that while visiting one home he improperly parked the car in the wrong direction.

>> On Aug. 2, Freitas had a meeting with Morris and was so verbally abusive that Morris suffered a "nervous breakdown" and had to take several days' work off. At the same meeting, Freitas allegedly told Morris their conversation was private and thus deprived Morris of his rights as an employee.



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