DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Circuit Judge Marcia Waldorf heard oral arguments yesterday before denying a request by Sharon Black, right, pictured with her attorney Tommy Otake, to dismiss the charges against her.
Data tampering case to proceed
A researcher sought dismissal of charges she stole suicide files
A Honolulu police civilian outreach worker who is accused of criminal charges stemming from sensitive information she allegedly removed from the city Medical Examiner's office will proceed to trial, a judge has ruled.
Circuit Judge Marcia Waldorf denied Sharon Black's request yesterday to have the charges dismissed. Black's trial is set for Feb. 8.
Black was indicted in August on charges of unauthorized computer access, tampering with government records and fourth-degree theft stemming from research she was conducting on suicides.
She was accused of using the print function of the Medical Examiner's computer to print copies of suicide cases and removing them from the facility after she had been told she didn't have authority from the medical examiner.
Black is also accused of making copies of the files she removed after she was instructed to return them the next day.
Waldorf noted that there was value in the research Black was conducting, or she wouldn't have had access to it in the first place. However, removing documents from the facility and photocopying them, as alleged, were not necessary to that purpose, she said.
The judge also agreed with prosecutors about the threatened harm, because the confidential information is still missing and unaccounted for.
The Medical Examiner had a system in place to retain and limit access to confidential information, Waldorf said, and that limit was exceeded.
Deputy public defender Tommy Otake says Black's intentions were honorable and she believed she had permission to make copies because she had done so in the past. Black had no intention of using the information for personal reasons, he said, and those who have worked with her in the past have said she always handled highly sensitive information related to her work with the homeless and mentally ill with utmost care and confidentiality.
Deputy prosecutor Chris Van Marter described Black's alleged actions as "extremely serious."
"This case is about protecting the integrity of information deemed confidential by law," he said.
Some of the sensitive information contained in the missing files includes decedents' Social Security numbers, manner of death, lab test results that could indicate the presence of drugs, details of the suicide and quotes from suicide notes. The Medical Examiner has said that such information is made available only by court subpoena.
Black contends that the charges are in retaliation for a sexual harassment lawsuit she filed nearly a decade ago against an assistant police chief and the department. The city settled with Black for $500,000.