Category Archives: Crime

More “target letters” sent by feds in police chief’s case

Hawaii News Now reported last night that the federal investigation of Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha and his wife has taken another step forward (“More officers facing charges in federal investigation of HPD chief, wife“).

According to HNN:

According to sources, federal “target letters” have gone out to several people connected to the chief and his wife, Katherine Kealoha.

“When you become a target, you’re being told that you’ve committed a crime, and they’re investigating you and they want you to come in and talk to them,” said attorney William Harrison, represents one of those who received a target letter.

“It’s very serious,” he said, adding that he’s made contact with the federal prosecutor and the FBI agents handling the case.

Here a link to a sample “target letter.”

The sample letter says, in part:

We advise you that the Grand Jury is conducting an investigation of possible violations of federal criminal laws involving, but not necessarily limited to *. You are advised that the destruction or alteration of any document required to be produced before the grand jury constitutes serious violation of federal law, including but not limited to Obstruction of Justice.

You are advised that you are a target of the Grand Jury’s investigation. You may refuse to answer any question if a truthful answer to the question would tend to incriminate you. Anything that you do or say may be used against you in a subsequent legal proceeding.

An online search turns up lots of information about target letters.

One site warns:

“A “target letter” is just what it implies: You are likely going to be indicted, and you better act accordingly.

Another site explains that there are different levels of such letters, and the recipient might be either a “subject” or a “target”.

A grand jury subject is the gray area between a witness and a target. The United States Attorneys’ Manual defines a subject as “a person whose conduct is within the scope of the grand jury’s investigation.” It means that the government is not actively seeking your indictment but that the government may try to indict you in the future because you engaged in conduct connected to what the grand jury is investigating. Basically, the government has not made up its mind about you. You might be in trouble or you might not.

A grand jury target is someone who is likely to be indicted. According to the United States Attorney’s Manual, a target “is a person as to whom the prosecutor or the grand jury has substantial evidence linking him or her to the commission of a crime and who, in the judgment of the prosecutor, is a putative defendant.” This is the most serious category, and it means you are in serious trouble. The most likely outcome is that you will be indicted.

It now seems very clear that this grand jury investigation isn’t going away, and indictments seem likely.

It’s creating more tricky terrain for Mayor Kirk Caldwell just two months before the election.

Subcontractor on state prison plan has history of fraud, abuse

Don’t miss today’s Civil Beat story about Louis Berger, the New Jersey consulting firm hired to study the replacement of the Hawaii Community Correctional Center on Dillingham Boulevard (“Hawaii Prison Contractor Was Convicted Of Fraud And Bribery“).

Check it out. Remember, no more firewall.

The story’s headline just hints at the long list of prior violations by the company selected for the job.

According to Civil Beat, “Architects Hawaii…was awarded a $5 million contract to craft a comprehensive blueprint — complete with proposed designs and potential sites — for the new OCCC.”

And Architects Hawaii, in turn, hired Louis Berger as its subcontractor to do a substantial amount of the actual work.

The problem is that Louis Berger, both the firm and several of its former officers, have been found to have defrauded the federal government of millions in a series of cases over the past decade, most involving overseas work.

And because Berger is a subcontractor to Architects Hawaii, there is little information about its work available and little the state can do about it.

So that’s one problem, spelled out in gory detail by Civil Beat.

But there’s another fundamental problem.

The Public Safety contract was apparently awarded, including crafting “a comprehensive blueprint” for a new prison system, at the same time that a legislatively-mandated task force is meeting to study “effective incarceration policies in Hawaii and other jurisdictions, and suggesting improvements for Hawaii’s correctional system, including recommendations for designs of future correctional facilities.”

It looks like the administration is simply ignoring the legislature’s attempt to take a broader look at the prison system and its needs before proceeding towards construction. Instead of holding off to see what the task force advises, and which (if any) of its recommendations the legislature wants to pursue, Public Safety is launching on its own.

Anyway, good work by CB writer, Rui Kaneya.

Great investigative series on sexual abuse by doctors

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has just published a great investigative series, Doctors & Sex Abuse.

The lead article, “License to Betray“, appeared July 8.

Here’s the newspaper’s description of how the project got started.

As is often the case with investigative reporting, this series in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution grew out of other work. Reporter Danny Robbins was examining orders by the Georgia Composite Medical Board for his 2015 stories on prison medical care. In doing so, he saw orders allowing doctors to continue practicing after a finding that they had sexually violated patients.

He compiled those orders, discovering about 70 cases clearly involving sexual misconduct. And in about two-thirds of those cases, he was shocked to find, doctors either didn’t lose their licenses or were reinstated after being sanctioned. That included doctors who had repeatedly crossed the line with patients.

To see if Georgia was an exception, the AJC hired a legal researcher to study laws governing medical practices in every state, as reporters gathered studies and looked for cases around the country, compiled from news reports and other public sources. That work raised questions about the pervasiveness of doctor sexual misconduct. The research, and periodic scrutiny from other news organizations, also suggested that doctors were treated differently from other sexual offenders.

The series is a real eye-opener.

The state-by-state guide cites a single case in Hawaii. Robert McCormick Browne was a psychiatrist at Kamehameha Schools who is accused of molesting dozens of boys between 1947 and 1985. He committed suicide 25 years ago when the allegations became public.

The newspaper notes one “key fact” about Hawaii’s disciplinary system.

The state only keeps disciplinary information on its website for five years, one of the most limited periods in the nation.

Just another area in which Hawaii shortchanges the public when it comes to information access.

News report of “police conspiracy” missed the mark

For those of you who don’t routinely check out Civil Beat, you might be interested in the column that I wrote last week (“Ian Lind: HPU-Police ‘Conspiracy’ Report Told Less Than Half the Story“).

It was triggered by a Hawaii news Now story a couple of weeks ago about a lawsuit alleging that a former HPU professor had been “set up” by two others at HPU to be killed by police. When the story said one of those involved was an experienced former HPD officer, it gave me one of those “Did I hear that right?” moments and was just strange enough to prompt me to check out the tale.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, court records provided a lot more of the background to the case. Most of the background called into question the lawsuit’s allegations and, in fact, its overall narrative, which had been uncritically repeated by HNN.

It isn’t known just how HNN decided to broadcast the lawsuits allegations almost as if they were fact, but apparently without doing any basic independent checking.

And its not clear to me why the attorney handing the case would go so far out on a limb with allegations where there’s such a contradictory back story.

But its a case that certainly reminds us that it’s best to read actively and not assume that the news media has done their homework.

New Report: Reduce crime by investing in economic justice and policing

Don’t miss this story from the Washington Post, which reports the conclusions of a new study on criminal justice reform by the White House Council on Economic Advisors (“Obama’s advisers just revealed an unconventional solution to mass incarceration“).

The report compares approaches to reducing the nation’s crime rate, and concludes that indirect solutions will result in greater crime reduction than simply spending more on prisons and incarceration.

According the Post:

They forecast that hiking the federal minimum hourly wage from $7.25 to $12 would reduce crime by 3 percent to 5 percent, as fewer people would be forced to turn to illegal activity to make ends meet.

That’s more than the 1 to 4 percent reduction projected to result from a $10 billion increase in spending on prisons.

Here’s another tidbit from the Post story:

The most effective way to reduce crime would be to spend more money on policing, the report projects. Research consistently shows that departments with more manpower and technology do a better job of protecting the public, and the United States has 35 percent fewer officers relative to the population than do other countries on average.

I’ve never seen that statistic before, and will have to check the report itself for additional information.

If it’s true, then we have substantially fewer police officers, but have far more people in prison than other countries.

In any case, the report itself can be found here.

Click here to view the highlights of the report in what appears to be a presentation about the report by the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors.