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The Honolulu Advertiser

Postedat 11 a.m., Thursday, August 30, 2001

Assistant police chief pleads not guilty in theft

By Johnny Brannon
Advertiser Staff Writer

Assistant police chief Rafael Fajardo Jr., the highest-ranking Honolulu police officer ever indicted for a felony, pleaded not guilty in Circuit Court this morning to a charge of second-degree theft. His trial is set for Oct. 29 before Circuit Judge Karl Sakamoto.

Meanwhile, the State of Hawai'i Association of Police Officers said it had full confidence in police chief Lee Donohue. The chairman of the union's O'ahu chapter, Det. Alex Garcia, had called last weekend for Donohue to resign, and for rank-and-file officers to conduct a vote of no confidence against him.

Asst. Police Chief Rafael Fajardo Jr., left, listens in court today as his attorney Howard Luke speaks.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

In a statement released this morning, SHOPO president Lt. Dennis Kunitake, called Garcia's public statements "unnecesary."

"A poll of this nature could occur when police officers feel they can no longer serve under their chief because they lack confidence in his ability to lead," the statement said.

"This is not the case regarding Chief Donohue who has maintained an excellent working relationship with SHOPO and has acknowledged, recognized and resolved labor issues affecting police officers throughout the state."

Garcia today said he had no further comment on the matter.

Fajardo, 59, declined to comment on the charge against him, but his attorney, Howard Luke, said

Fajardo "categorically denies allegations that he stole anything from the City and County of Honolulu, the Police Department and the taxpayers."

Fajardo and Maj. Jeffrey Owens, 50, are accused of buying meals for police officers using money intended to feed prisoners detained at police headquarters.

Donohue has admitted eating some of the meals in question, but said he had no idea they were purchased improperly.

Fajardo is the former business partner of a Walter Miura, whose family runs a catering service that has supplied the department with breakfast several times over the past five years. Miura's attorney said the meals were donated or sold for a fee of two or three dollars each.

The police department says it has no record of buying food from the company, but its purchasing invoices are part of the investigation and cannot be released.

His attorney said Fajardo had no financial interest in any business that supplied food to the police department, and suggested that people who have implicated Fajardo are lying.

"I am absolutely certain that there are individuals who may have a motive to be less than honest in this case," Luke said.

But deputy prosecutor Randal Lee said the facts will speak for themselves.

"Once the evidence comes out at trial, the public will see the abuse of power these high-ranking officers took advantage of, and the atrocious amount of money that was taken from the taxpayers," he said.

On Monday, Owens also pleaded not guilty to second-degree theft, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. His trial is also set for Oct. 29.

Lee said at least one other member of the department, a civilian food service worker, will be charged. "Several" people have agreed to plead guilty to theft charges and cooperate with prosecutors, he said.

Lee would not say whether the officers indicted were accused of profiting from the alleged scheme, or whether Donohue and other members of the command staff had been cleared of suspicion.

The misuse of money allegedly occurred between 1995 and 2000, when Fajardo and Owens were in charge of the Central Receiving Division, which operates O'ahu's main police booking and detention facility and processes most people arrested on the island.

Reach Johnny Brannon at jbrannon@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2431.