Tuesday, February 6, 2001
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Posted on: Tuesday, February 6, 2001

Prison terms ordered in police beating

By David Waite
Advertiser Staff Writer

A former Honolulu police officer was sentenced to two years and two months in federal prison, while an officer still on the force received six months behind bars for their respective roles in the 1995 beating of a prisoner at the main police station and the attempt to cover it up.

Federal Judge Alan Kay handed down the 26-month sentence to former police officer Jesse Nozawa, who pleaded guilty in September to violating prisoner Richard Doolin’s civil rights. Doolin was beaten Aug. 5, 1995, in a cellblock at the main police station on Beretania Street.

Doolin, then a guard at Halawa prison, had been arrested in connection with allegedly violating a temporary restraining order by telephoning his wife. He was booked and held at the Pearl City police station and later transferred to the main cellblock because of what the Pearl City officers said was unruly behavior.

Doolin suffered multiple injuries, including several broken ribs, during the beating and later won a $317,000 settlement from the city.

Nozawa’s lawyer, Brook Hart, said his client admits to kicking Doolin three to five times "in the buttocks" while other officers attempted to subdue Doolin in a holding cell.

But Michael Barr, a member of a U.S. Department of Justice unit in Washington, D.C., that handles civil rights violation cases, told Kay that had the matter gone to trial, witnesses were prepared to testify that the "wind went out of Doolin" as the result of Nozawa’s kicks. But Barr said he was not suggesting that Doolin’s cracked ribs resulted from Nozawa’s kicks.

Nozawa, who resigned from HPD Dec. 1, declined to speak on his own behalf and was ordered to begin serving his sentence at a Mainland facility on April 9.

Meanwhile, Brian Punzal, who is still employed by the Honolulu Police Department, was sentenced to six months in prison. Punzal pleaded guilty earlier to a charge of being an accessory after the fact, a misdemeanor, for signing a report that said the use of force against Doolin was necessary.

Punzal’s lawyer, Howard Luke, said that except for one momentary lapse in judgment, Punzal was an exemplary police officer, one who was highly regarded by fellow officers and the community. Luke urged Kay to sentence Punzal to probation or six months house arrest.

Although he described Punzal as the least culpable of the officers arrested in connection with Doolin’s beating, Kay said he felt compelled to sentence him to the six-month prison term to serve as a deterrent to other police officers who might be tempted to mistreat prisoners.

A tearful Punzal told Kay he took full responsibility for his actions and blamed no one else for his situation.

"I was not the (acting) sergeant, not the police officer and not the Christian I should have been," Punzal said.

Already sentenced in the case after pleading guilty to the charges against them were Honolulu police officers or former officers David Chun, A.C. Brown, and William Duarte.

A sixth officer, George DeRamos Jr., is scheduled to be sentenced Monday.

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