Wednesday, October 10, 2001

Investigator vague
about probe of
Kauai police chief

John Ko's remarks in a video
hint that the inquiry may go further

By Anthony Sommer

LIHUE >> A videotape of an investigator looking into allegations against Police Chief George Freitas has been mandatory viewing for every employee of the Kauai Police Department.

The videotape shows investigator John Ko, on loan from the Honolulu Police Commission to the Kauai Police Commission, introducing himself to senior members of the KPD and outlining in broad terms his investigation of Freitas.

Ko's introductory remarks, taped about a month ago, provide only a glimpse of the investigation.

He is vague about exactly what he is investigating, saying only that it has to do with "hindering prosecution."

Today, exactly two months after the Kauai Police Commission voted to ask Mayor Maryanne Kusaka to place Freitas on paid leave while it conducts an investigation of him, exactly what is being investigated remains a secret. Freitas has said repeatedly he has not been told what he was accused of.

County Attorney Hartwell Blake has defended the slow pace of the investigation, noting Kauai County never has investigated a police chief before.

Numerous sources have said a complaint against Freitas was filed by police Inspector Mel Morris, head of the Investigations Division, and Lt. Alvin Seto, head of the Youth Services Bureau. Sources also have said the accusation centers on an allegation that Freitas refused to investigate a sexual harassment complaint from a police dispatcher against Kauai police officer Nelson Gabriel.

The dispatcher, however, did not file the complaint, nor has she taken legal action against Freitas or Kauai County.

Last month, Gabriel went on trial without a jury on 20 felony counts of sexually molesting a young female relative.

Gabriel's attorney, Michael Green, introduced evidence that the girl has a long history of lying and making serious accusations against people that she later admitted were false.

A decision in the case is expected later this month.

Freitas has denied blocking the separate sexual harassment investigation of Gabriel. He has said he brought the matter to the County Attorney's Office and followed the legal advice he was given.

Ko's taped remarks leave the impression that the investigation may go beyond hindering prosecution.

The Kauai County Attorney's Office insists the tape is secret and not a public record. However, at least some members of the KPD have made copies to be viewed by people outside the department.

The video was viewed by the Star-Bulletin.

On the video, Ko tells officers that because he is conducting an administrative investigation, they can tell him things that would not be allowed in a criminal case and invites them to speak to him informally.

"Until the tape recorder goes on, it's all off the record," he says on the video.

On Kauai, the police chief works for the Police Commission rather than the mayor.

The County Charter says the chief can be removed by the commission, but only after being given written charges and a hearing by the commission.

The commission's rules require any investigation to be completed within 60 days -- that deadline passes today but the commission will not meet again until Oct. 19 -- and a decision must be reached within 120 days.

Freitas has hired former Attorney General Margery Bronster to represent him.

Bronster is expected in the near future to demand the commission either inform Freitas of the charges against him or immediately allow him to return to work.

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