Former police officer pleads guilty to selling 'ice'
Robert Henry Sylva admits to a $5,400 sale that was carried out while he was in uniform
A former Honolulu police officer pleaded guilty yesterday to selling $5,400 worth of crystal methamphetamine to an informant.
Robert Henry Sylva, 50, had been charged with three counts of distributing crystal meth or "ice" on separate occasions last year, but pleaded to only one charge as part of an agreement with federal prosecutors.
As part of the plea, Sylva took responsibility for a drug sale that took place on March 21, 2004. In a sting operation at a Sports Authority parking lot off Ward Avenue, Sylva sold 3 ounces of ice for $5,400.
During the transaction, the informant had a hidden recorder, which recorded Sylva complaining about the amount of drugs he gets for his girlfriend on a regular basis.
"The bottom line is I give this girl a lot, you know what I mean?" Sylva said in the recording.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Kawahara said that while Sylva was not charged with the other two counts of drug distribution, those incidents will be taken into account when Sylva is up for sentencing next year.
"We're glad there's acceptance of responsibility on Mr. Sylva's part, but he still needs to be punished," Kawahara said.
According to court documents, Sylva was charged with distributing ice on three separate occasions to a federal law enforcement informant. The alleged drug buys included 1 ounce of ice for $1,800 on March 11, an eighth of an ounce for $300 on March 18 and 3 ounces on March 21 for $5,400.
Federal prosecutors said that with the first sale, Sylva was on duty at the HPD main station, where he confirmed a meeting place for a drug buy during a phone call. He later drove to pick up the drugs and delivered them to the informant.
In the March 21 drug sale, prosecutors said Sylva sold the ice while in uniform.
Prosecutors said Sylva demonstrated that he had "an extensive history of methamphetamine trafficking." In tape-recorded comments to the informant, Sylva talks about the quality of the ice, saying it was "really good" and that it "no look as rocky, but he said everybody loves it."
Sylva, a 22-year veteran of the police department, was arrested March 30 and has since been incarcerated at the Federal Detention Center near the airport.
His attorney, Alvin Nishimura, said Sylva spends 23 hours a day in a "shoe," his cell, because he is not allowed to interact with the prison's general population.
Nishimura said Sylva is a "super guy" who went into a "major depression" years ago after his son and both parents died and his wife left him.
He has a daughter in the eighth grade.
In a letter from prison to his fellow police officers at the Kalihi substation, where he was assigned to for many years, Sylva said he never got help because he was afraid to tell his superiors he was depressed.
He feared he would be taken off his beat or lose his job. In the letter, he urged other officers not to make the same mistake.
Sylva faces a minimum of 10 years to life in prison for the distribution charge. He is scheduled to be sentenced June 13 before U.S. District Judge David Ezra.