Former police officer cleared of assault
A Honolulu jury took three hours Friday to find former police officer Hilarion Oliva not guilty of assaulting a man outside police headquarters on Mother's Day, 2004.
Oliva, 42, a 20-year veteran of the force, was charged with misdemeanor third-degree assault for punching Levi Ka'ai once in the forehead during a confrontation. Oliva claimed he was trying to defend himself.
Defense attorney Jonathan Burge said his client is relieved to have been exonerated.
"It's been almost two years he's been under this cloud," Burge said. "To have it lifted, it's brought great relief to him."
Burge said he knew what the outcome of a trial would be from the outset. "The charges were ridiculous. The whole theory of the government's case was ridiculous, and I wished they looked at the evidence like I and the jurors did."
Deputy prosecutor Chris Denton could not be reached for comment. At trial, the state maintained Oliva crossed the line when he assaulted Ka'ai, 30, after Ka'ai repeatedly taunted and goaded him to fight.
Burge said he is disappointed in the way the administration treated Oliva, who was fired in August. A grievance filed by the police union on his behalf is pending. The union will put Oliva's case on an expedited track to get his job back, Burge said.
"He liked being a policeman and will be again," Burge said.
Oliva did not dispute he punched Ka'ai once in the forehead, but said he did so because Ka'ai made a sudden move and he believed he was going to be mobbed.
Oliva had arrested Ka'ai around 3 a.m. that day for having an open container of liquor in the bed of a truck in which he was seated on Pohukaina Street. He said Ka'ai began taunting him and police in general.
Oliva was nearing the end of his shift around 6 a.m. when he passed Ka'ai, who had just been released from custody. He said he pulled over and got out of his car after Ka'ai signaled as though wanting to say something. As he approached, Ka'ai began taunting him again and challenged him to a fight as two other men that appeared to be friends looked on, Oliva said.
He testified that he tried to calm Ka'ai, but when the younger man made a sudden move, he punched him. Oliva broke his right fist in three pieces.
Ka'ai testified it was Oliva who initiated the threats, taunting him and acting tough.
He claimed Oliva approached him outside the police station and cold-cocked him in the face without provocation.