Honolulu police officers plead not guilty in Waiʻanae car crash, cover-up
Four Honolulu police officers pleaded not guilty on Thursday to charges related to their roles in a cover-up of a high-speed chase that resulted in a crash and a traumatic brain injury to the driver of another car, Jonaven Perkins-Sinapati.
The officers entered their pleas before Circuit Court Judge Christine E. Kuriyama.
One officer, Joshua J.S. Nahulu, 37, pleaded not guilty to a charge for a collision that resulted in serious bodily injury. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Prosecutors say he drove a vehicle involved in the collision and failed to stop at the scene.
Officers Erik X.K. Smith, 25, Jake R.T. Bartolome, 35, and Robert G. Lewis III, whose age was not listed in charging documents, each pleaded not guilty to one felony count for hindering prosecution and another felony count for conspiracy. The first charge is punishable by up to five years in prison, the second by up to one year.
The four officers were dispatched to respond to a noise complaint at a Waiʻanae beach park at 3:30 a.m. on Sept. 12, 2021, according to court documents.
That's when they saw a white Honda exit the parking lot to Farrington Highway. A civil lawsuit alleges Nahulu, Smith and Bartolome separately chased the Honda at high speeds using two marked Honolulu Police Department vehicles and one vehicle subsidized by police. It says the chase continued until the Honda “left the roadway and crashed."
The officers never commanded the Honda's driver to stop nor did they turn on their blue lights and sirens, the lawsuit states.
Nahulu, Smith and Bartolome drove past the crash scene without stopping, after which they met Lewis at nearby Waiʻanae Intermediate School, prosecutors said.
Smith, Bartolome and Lewis were then dispatched to the crash site, but when they arrived, the officers behaved as though they had no prior knowledge of the collision, charging documents say.
Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm said prior that the charges are the result of an exhaustive investigation and review of the evidence.
“These charges demonstrate that it is important to seek justice even when those believed to have committed crimes are the very people we expect to uphold the law,” Alm said in a statement last week.
A civil lawsuit was also filed against the city and the officers last year by Perkins-Sinapati and representatives of his passengers.