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Tuesday, September 26, 2000

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Brian Punzal walks into the federal courthouse with his
lawyer, left, and an unidentified woman.

Beating trial
opens tomorrow
for 2 officers

The case involves abuse of
prisoner at the central
receiving desk

By Debra Barayuga

Two of three Honolulu police officers scheduled to go to trial tomorrow for beating a prisoner in custody in 1995 have pleaded guilty.

Brian Punzal pleaded guilty this morning to a misdemeanor count of obstruction of justice.

He admitted to being on duty that night and signing a false use of force report.

Yesterday, officer Jesse Nozawa pleaded guilty to "willfully and knowingly striking Richard Doolin" on Aug. 5, 1995, resulting in bodily injury.

Nozawa faces a maximum 10-year term when sentenced Feb. 5 for the felony by U.S. District Judge Alan C. Kay. Prosecutors will recommend that he be sentenced to a 30-month term, said Michael Barr, an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division.

Punzal will also be sentenced Feb. 5 and faces up to 6 months in prison .

Defense attorney Brook Hart described Nozawa's "45-second period" in the cellblock as an "aberration" in his otherwise upstanding seven-year career with the Honolulu Police Department. Nozawa, 31, decided to accept the government's offer because the "risk of conviction based on the facts was too high."

Nozawa, who was on light duty the night of Aug. 5 at the Central Receiving desk when Doolin was transported from Pearl City, followed fellow officers as they carried him into a cellblock and placed him on a concrete bed.

After removing his cuffs and shackles, other officers allegedly began beating Doolin.

Nozawa disputes the government's version that he, a skilled martial artist, "raised his foot over his head and kicked down hard into the middle part of Doolin's body," Hart said.

Nozawa had previously claimed he wasn't in the cellblock at all when Doolin was beaten.

As part of the plea agreement, Nozawa agreed to testify against Punzal and the last remaining defendant, George DeRamos. Punzal and Nozawa remain on the police force on desk duty prior to their pleas. DeRamos is on workers compensation.

Officers David Chun and A.C. Brown pleaded guilty earlier to felony charges. Chun is serving a 51-month sentence. Brown has yet to be sentenced. Another officer, William Duarte, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor violations and was sentenced to 12 months.

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