Black's lawyer says misunderstanding led to case
A misunderstanding over printing copies of medical examiner records led to charges against police outreach worker Sharon Black, her attorney said.
Trial began at Circuit Court yesterday before Judge Richard Perkins for Black, 47, a civilian emergency crisis worker for the Honolulu Police Department charged with unauthorized computer access, tampering with government records and fourth-degree theft. The charges stem from research Black was conducting involving suicides in Honolulu.
This case is about "disrespect and deception," said Deputy Prosecutor Chris Van Marter.
In July 2005, Black was told by Alicia Kamahele, the medical examiner's secretary, that the printing of records was not allowed, Van Marter said. He also said Black's supervisors did not give her authorization to research the topic.
Kamahele said she received an e-mail from Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Kanthi De Alwis, who gave Black permission to research office records involving suicides in Honolulu from January to July 2005 as requested. Kamahele testified that she assumed Black had authorization from HPD to do the research.
Owen Harada, a retired administrative lieutenant who was Black's direct supervisor at the time, testified yesterday that Black did not get permission from him to conduct research on suicides.
When Black arrived at the office on July 29, 2005, Kamahele took her to the fax room where she could access records through a computer. Kamahele instructed Black that she could not make printouts from the computer after Black had asked her.
"She takes this on to mean this computer can't print," said attorney Tommy Otake, representing Black. "She sat at that computer for four days and didn't print a single thing from that computer because she thought the computer couldn't print."
On Aug. 4, the fifth day of Black's research, Kamahele took her to a computer in the investigative room. Otake said Black thought she could print records from the computer in that room. She printed documents and had assistance from an investigator in changing an ink cartridge.
Later that day, Kamahele learned from the investigator that Black printed the records and removed them from the office. "I was very upset," she said.
"I thought it was very clear that she wasn't authorized to make copies," Kamahele said.
She called Black, who admitted the actions.
The 12 records included laboratory reports that are available to the public and case administrative reports that include "sensitive and confidential information" that are only available through a court-ordered subpoena, First Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. William Goodhue said.
The printouts were returned the following day, but the laboratory reports appeared to be printouts instead of the original documents. "Those documents today are still missing (and) unaccounted for," Van Marter said.