WAILUKU — The Hawaii Supreme Court dismissed a misdemeanor charge against a weekly tabloid publisher who was detained when he used his cellphone to videotape a police traffic enforcement operation six years ago.
The court decided records don’t prove Thomas Russo failed to comply with a police officer’s order, the Maui News reported Tuesday.
Russo, publisher of Maui Time, was arrested in November 2012 while officers were looking for oversized vehicles and ones with illegally tinted windows. Two police officers reported telling Russo multiple times to step back, saying he was in their area of operations and in danger of being struck by a vehicle.
But the court said Russo’s cellphone video “plainly demonstrates” that he had obeyed officers’ orders.
“Russo appeared to make a concerted effort to comply with the officers’ instructions, and the video shows that he walked away or backwards when ordered by the officers to step or stand back,” the court opinion said.
In July 2014, Wailuku District Judge Kelsey Kawano dismissed Russo’s charges of failure to comply and disorderly conduct. But the prosecution appealed the ruling, leading to the state Intermediate Court of Appeals vacating the dismissals. That sent the case back to the District Court.
Russo then asked the state Supreme Court to review the case and the court held oral arguments at the University of Hawaii at Hilo in November before issuing the opinion.