Judge rules rights violated in seal beheading
LIHUE » Prosecutors will have a tough time trying to convict a Kauai man of charges he cut off the head of a dead monk seal.
District Judge Trudy Senda said yesterday that federal and state law enforcement officers violated Justin Freemon's rights last May while questioning him about the dead monk seal at Pilaa Beach on the northeast side of the Garden Isle.
According to testimony last month, Freemon, 25, blurted out during questioning near Pilaa Beach, where the dead monk seal was found, that he had cut off the head.
Senda said the law enforcement officers should have read Freemon his Miranda rights. But they continued questioning him and eventually Freemon led them to his campsite, where he showed them the head and the knife used to cut it off. Now the knife, the head, and any other statements cannot be used at trial.
Paul Newman, law enforcement officer for the National Marine Fisheries Service, said in December that he was more concerned about getting the head back.
Prosecutors said that all is not lost. They still have a witness who talked to Freemon about the alleged incident, and the body of the seal, which was found in a different area. They'll make a decision after reading the judge's written ruling, Deputy Prosecutor Marc Guyot said.
Freemon said after the court session that the ruling was "what I expected to happen today."
He is charged with violating the state Endangered Species Act, a misdemeanor that could carry a $50,000 fine and a year in jail if he is convicted.