Officer in ‘ice’ case freed

A federal magistrate approves
a request for treatment under
a friend’s supervision

A federal magistrate has ordered the release of a Honolulu police officer accused of selling crystal methamphetamine earlier this year who says he wants to seek treatment for depression and a drinking problem.

Robert Henry Sylva, 49, has been detained without bail at the federal detention center in a special holding unit since his March 28 arrest.

Magistrate Leslie Kobayashi agreed yesterday to Sylva's request to be released to the custody and supervision of police officer William Lurbe, a childhood friend and fellow recruit classmate.

But she also ordered the posting of a $25,000 unsecured bond, home detention and electronic monitoring to address the government's concern that he is a danger to the community if he resumes his alleged drug activities.

Federal prosecutors objected to the release and said they intend to appeal her decision to a district judge.

Sylva sought the release so he could seek treatment for depression and a drinking problem that began four years ago after he lost both his parents to cancer and his 12-year-old son to complications of cerebral palsy -- all within a year and a half, said his attorney Al Nishimura.

The devastation and depression led him to drink and seek solace in women, one of whom took $100,000 of his retirement money, causing him to lose his childhood home, Nishimura stated in court documents. Other women who used drugs also led to his subsequent arrest on the drug charges, he said.

"Although Mr. Sylva never used drugs himself, obtaining drugs for women who showed him attention was the only way he knew how to deal with his depression," Nishimura said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Kawahara objected to Sylva being placed in Lurbe's custody, saying it was inappropriate given Lurbe, a former narcotics vice officer, is under supervision by state probation officials for a September 2003 traffic incident in which he pleaded no contest earlier this year to two misdemeanor harassment charges.

He questioned Lurbe's conduct in that incident, which occurred one week after he received a disciplinary letter for an unrelated matter. Kawahara said Lurbe's actions showed a lack of good judgment and call into question whether he is qualified to supervise Sylva when he has issues of his own.

Kobayashi said while the traffic incident showed a lack of judgment on Lurbe's part, he took responsibility, and she felt he was sincere in his willingness to supervise Sylva, even if it could put his career at risk.

Nishimura, who also grew up with Sylva, described his friend as a "kind and gentle soul" and devoted and loving father who had not seen his only remaining child, a 12-year-old daughter, since his arrest, making him more depressed. She has been unable to visit him at the detention center because he is in a special holding unit, confined for 23 hours a day, for his safety.

Lurbe, a police officer since 1982, was previously assigned to the Kalihi district but had his gun and badge taken away and has since been reassigned, a police spokeswoman said.

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