HPD major allegedly
lied about meals

Prosecutors seek Owens' statement
to police commissioners

By Debra Barayuga

City prosecutors say they want to know if a high-ranking police official awaiting trial on a felony theft charge lied to the Honolulu Police Commission before it voted to pay for his defense with public funds.

Circuit Judge Dan Kochi yesterday granted the state's request for a transcript of the statement and answers police Maj. Jeffrey Owens gave the commission at a closed hearing on June 26.

Owens and retired Assistant Police Chief Rafael Fajardo face trial Aug. 19 on charges they directed food preparation workers to order and prepare breakfasts and elaborate meals consumed by them, other higher-ups and officers in the Central Receiving Division. The theft arises from their alleged use of funds intended to feed arrested suspects.

Both served as commanders of the Central Receiving Division during overlapping periods between 1995 and 2000.

Deputy Prosecutor Randal Lee argued yesterday that, based on a TV news report, Owens' statement to the commission contradicts the statement he gave to a police investigator earlier. In his pleadings, Lee noted that Owens' statement to the commission, if true, goes directly to the merit of the criminal charges and he wants to raise the issue at trial.

Owens, according to the report, told the commission that the food being purchased was for the prisoners and was intended to keep them well fed so they would be less unruly and this in turn would increase officers' morale, Lee said.

However, Owens told police Maj. Daniel Hanagami that he authorized the food purchases for officers -- to boost morale at the receiving desk, which had been plagued with civil-rights complaints, Lee said.

Owens contends he had discretion as the division's commander to reallocate the division's resources.

Fajardo has claimed that he paid for food served to officers at the receiving desk from his own money, a practice that would allow rank and file to meet with higher-ups.

Arrested suspects are usually fed packaged meals that only require heating.

Among the foods fed to officers and higher-ups -- but not to prisoners -- were rack of lamb, top sirloin beef, pork loins, cookies and brownies. Also ordered were breakfast items such as bacon, eggs, ham, cocktail smokies, Spam, and Vienna and Portuguese sausages that were allegedly served at breakfast meetings or bureau meetings attended by Fajardo and Owens.

After the hearing, Police Commission Chairman Leonard Leong confirmed that the commission voted to use public funds to pay for Owens' legal expenses. The commission "concurred (his actions) were within the scope of his work," Leong said.

During the hearing, Owens' attorney, Darwin Ching, and Deputy Corporation Counsel Wyeth Matsubara, who represents the commission, opposed the prosecutor's request, arguing that it violated Owens' privacy rights and granting it could have a chilling effect on others who appear before the commission seeking legal representation.

Ching said prosecutors are on a "fishing expedition" to intimidate commission members into withdrawing their decision.

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