Not public yet: Judge to review sensitive documents in drug case in private

  • 3rd Circuit Court Judge Robert Kim

KEALAKEKUA — A judge will view documents pertaining to a drug case in private before he rules whether the case is dismissed.

The decision by Kona Circuit Court Judge Robert Kim on Thursday means that information involving a police officer witness and an internal investigation inside the police department won’t be made public — at least not yet.

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Kim granted the state’s request that he view those documents during an in-camera hearing, a hearing reserved only for a judge to review such filings.

But Kim also ordered that the Hawaii Police Department also submit a date that those documents could become public, should they qualify for the public court file.

Once he has all that information, Kim can rule on whether to dismiss Jose Miranda’s felony drug case with or without prejudice — the former meaning the state could not refile the charges, the latter meaning it could. Kim could also decide he needs to assign a special prosecutor to dig up more information before he makes a decision.

“I’ll do my due diligence investigating and chose one of the three,” Kim said.

Thursday’s hearing came after Kim issued a notice to the public earlier this month that allowed the public to voice its opinion on whether the judge should or should not close the case to the public.

Kim took testimony during a June 6 hearing on exactly that. A handful of members from the public offered verbal or written testimony, including West Hawaii Today and the Big Island Press Club, who opposed closing it.

The case stems from Miranda’s 11-count drug case.

Prosecutors asked to have the felony drug case thrown out at the request of the police chief because a key witness is a sworn police officer under internal investigation.

After conferring with Police Chief Paul Ferreira, the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney filed a motion to dismiss all charges against Miranda in a case that spans 18 months. The unnamed witness is on leave from the department due to an ongoing internal investigation.

Miranda was charged with 11 counts of first-degree promoting a dangerous drug, a class A felony, in December 2017. Two counts were dropped, and after four continuances, trial was originally set to begin on June 18.

In May, Kim then called for an evidentiary hearing on the motion to dismiss.

The judge called it a serious case involving multiple felonies and said it is the duty of the court to investigate further to determine whether the case should be dismissed.

The state then filed a motion to close to the public the evidentiary hearing on the state’s motion to dismiss, which prompted Kim to issue the public notice that gave the public a chance to weigh in.

Kim said he’d been trying to get relevant information from the state as to why he should dismissed a serious case, but couldn’t get any answers, which prompted him to issue the public notice.

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The state objected to opening the hearing to the public, saying at the June 6 hearing that such matters are often shared during in-camera hearings.

On Thursday, Kim asked County of Hawaii Deputy Corporation Counsel Lerisa Heroldt, representing the police department, to file all the relevant documents by July 3.

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