Judge OKs use of alleged dog-eaters’ statements
Statements two former Moanalua Golf Club maintenance workers made to their boss about taking someone else's pet dog to eat can be used against them in trial, a state judge ruled yesterday.
Nelson Domingo and Saturnino Palting are charged with second-degree theft and first-degree cruelty to animals. Both charges are Class C felonies punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
They had asked Circuit Judge Randal Lee to throw out the statements because they said they did not make them voluntarily and because they were not informed of their right not to make a statement beforehand.
Both took the witness stand yesterday and, through interpreters, said when they returned to the Moanalua Golf Club at General Manager Stephen Burke's request, Honolulu police officers were waiting for them in the parking lot. An officer escorted them to Burke's office, and another officer already was in the office.
"Clearly the intention is to circumvent the Miranda requirements because from the minute that they showed up at the golf course in the afternoon, Dec. 16, police had probable cause at that point," and should have placed the men under arrest, said Lee Hayakawa, Palting's lawyer.
But Lee ruled that Burke was acting on his own behalf as the club's general manager and not an agent of the Honolulu Police Department when he asked the men the location of the dog and why they took it.
"There was no evidence that the police officer asked any questions. There was no evidence that the police had instructed Mr. Burke what to say or the nature of comments to be made," he said.
And Lee pointed out that the officer, who was inside Burke's office when Domingo and Palting arrived, did not even stay for the entire questioning.
He also found Domingo and Palting made the statements voluntarily because there was no evidence that Burke threatened to fire them or promised them anything for answering his questions. They probably already knew they would be fired before they returned to the club for taking property that belonged to a club member, Lee said.
Their trial, which was scheduled to begin next week, has been rescheduled for October. Both men remain free on $20,000 bail.