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Hawaii officers indicted for allegedly forcing man to lick urinal

Two Honolulu Police Department officers were arrested and charged with civil rights violations for allegedly forcing a homeless man to lick a public urinal, according to federal authorities.

John Rabago, 43, and Reginald Ramones, 43, were indicted on one count of conspiring to deprive a person of his civil rights and one count of acting under color of law to deprive the same individual of his civil rights, the U.S. Department of Justice said Friday.

Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard told KITV the arrests “cast a dark shadow on the department.”

“I ask that the public please continue to support the officers who carry out their daily assignments with courage, integrity and respect for the public,” Ballard told the station. “The two officers who were arrested will have their day in court and be held accountable for their actions.”

The charges stem from an incident in January 2018 during which federal authorities allege the officers “deprived an individual of his constitutional right to be free from an unreasonable seizure by a law enforcement officer.”

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Rabago, Ramones and two other officers were responding to a trespassing call when they encountered the homeless man and forced him to put his mouth on the urinal, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

Megan Kau, an attorney representing Rabago, said the allegations stem from a miscommunication at the scene that was reported up the chain of command “like a game of telephone.”

“Something that started as a joke or a miscomment was turned into a federal case,” she said. “We plan on going to trial immediately because I don’t believe that this complainant is credible.”

Kau noted that all four officers involved were placed on restriction of police authority status, although only Rabago and Ramones were charged. Both defendants pleaded not guilty in federal court on Friday, and Kau said she hopes to go to trial in early June.

If convicted, the officers could face a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

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Follow N’dea Yancey-Bragg on Twitter: @NdeaYanceyBragg

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