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The Honolulu Police Department refuses to release investigative details about an officer who was fired after sexually assaulting a Waikiki prostitute even though state law requires the information to be made public once a discharge is finalized.
Former officer Michael Tarmoun, who is believed to have fled to Morocco, was found guilty of second degree sexual assault in June 2011. He was discharged in October 2011, four months later.
But police officials still guard specifics of Tarmoun’s misconduct and their internal affairs investigation of his crime. According to them, he was discharged because he was convicted of a felony, not because of the sexual assault.
Civil Beat requested disciplinary records that are publicly available as part of its investigative series, In The Name Of The Law. That six-month examination of police misconduct found that officers are regularly suspended or discharged for serious misconduct but the public is legally prohibited from knowing much about it. In 1995, the Legislature exempted cops from public disclosure unless they have been discharged even though all other public employees’ misconduct files are subject to disclosure.
HPD charged Civil Beat $2,000 to gain access to Tarmoun’s termination file as well as those of two other officers.
Tarmoun’s public file essentially says HPD spoke with an assistant prosecutor to confirm he was convicted. The only information regarding his crime comes from two news reports, one from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and one from KHON, that report basic facts of the case.
Several important details were omitted from the files HPD provided, including the fact that Tarmoun had initially been cleared of any wrongdoing by the department and that an officer who was a key witness in his criminal case was also under investigation for an alleged sexual assault.
All this information came from Tarmoun’s court file.
HPD spokeswoman Michelle Yu said in an email that HPD would only disclose information related to the employment-related misconduct that results in an officer’s discharge.
“Other information in the officers personnel file is not (disclosable),” Yu said. “Michael Tarmoun was discharged for committing a criminal act.”
Tarmoun was accused of forcing a Waikiki prostitute to have sex with him in July 2009 in exchange for not arresting her. When he was discharged he was an officer in HPD’s Central Receiving Division.
Former Honolulu police officer Michael Tarmoun.
Although Tarmoun denied any wrongdoing — he said he didn’t have sex with the woman and only gave her $5 for food — a jury found him guilty of second-degree sexual assault after two trials. The first trial ended in a hung jury.
Tarmoun fled the country before he could be sentenced. No one had confiscated his passport despite the judge allowing it to be seized.
HPD discharged Tarmoun on Oct. 28, 2011, which under the state’s public records law freed up certain information in his personnel file related to his misconduct. That specifically includes the name of the employee, the nature of the misconduct, a summary of the allegations, findings of fact and conclusions of law, and the disciplinary action taken.
Tarmoun’s investigative file is spare — only 23 pages. It includes a two-page discharge letter, which detailed why he was being fired from HPD. The letter was signed by Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha.
“As a convicted felon, you are prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm,” Kealoha said. “Therefore, you do not meet the minimum requirement as a Metropolitan Police Officer.”
The letter says nothing about the incident in Waikiki or what HPD investigators found when they looked into it.
The rest of the file related to how HPD documented that Tarmoun had been convicted, since it was the conviction that resulted in his discharge. Officials spoke with a deputy prosecutor who told them the jury had convicted Tarmoun. Several parts of the report had been redacted, including Tarmoun’s badge number, the day he was hired, locations of meetings, the names of witnesses and the names of other officers.
But there is a lack of information about the internal investigation into the sexual assault itself. Much of the rest of the file revolves around getting Tarmoun to fill out some paperwork in which he was allowed to respond to the allegations related to his criminal conviction.
“I continue to maintain my innocence and am currently working with my attorney to appeal the verdict,” Tarmoun wrote. “I did not commit this crime, and I believe my trial was not fair and I was not allowed a proper defense for various reasons. Should I be successful in over-turning this verdict in a court of law, I plan to resume my duties as an officer of the Honolulu Police Department.”
Based only on the information HPD released regarding Tarmoun’s discharge, it would appear there was little investigation into Tarmoun’s transgressions aside from what led up to his prosecution. But that simply isn’t true.
Court records show that HPD did do a more thorough internal investigation of his conduct in addition to the criminal investigation. According to those records, there were 235 pages of police reports related to the Tarmoun case.
The court records also indicate HPD initially stripped Tarmoun of his police powers while it looked into the sex assault allegations as well as another stalking complaint filed by his girlfriend.
HPD eventually cleared Tarmoun, allowing him to go back to work after being on administrative leave with pay.
That was what spurred his victim to come forward and cooperate with authorities in the case, court records say. She didn’t like the idea that Tarmoun would be back on the street with a gun and a badge.
Also missing from Tarmoun’s public disciplinary file is any reference to HPD officer James Easley, who had taken a statement from a witness in the case.
Easley was fired by HPD in September 2011 for conducting “personal business while on duty” and not telling dispatch of his whereabouts. Records obtained by Civil Beat found that “personal business” was Easley leaving his post to have sex with a domestic violence victim who he had offered a ride home.
According to court records, Easley had interviewed Tarmoun’s alleged victim in 2009. The same records say Easley was the subject of his own sexual assault investigation while he was handling the Tarmoun case.
Tarmoun’s attorney, William Harrison, argued Easley had a motive to “push the prosecution of Tarmoun in an attempt to divert attention and investigation efforts away from him.”
Harrison tried to use this information during the trial, but told Civil Beat he was unsuccessful in getting all the internal affairs records related to Easley’s alleged misconduct.
“Clearly if there’s any list of prior bad conduct or incident by police officers we believe that should be relevant to handling police officers if they’re witnesses against a client,” Harrison said. “But it’s been difficult for us to obtain those reports.”
Civil Beat has asked for the records related to Easley’s termination. HPD has provided very few of the those documents so far, but did release his termination letter. Civil Beat has also requested records related to Shayne Souza, who was fired in July 2010 after he was arrested in Las Vegas on drug charges. HPD has not provided those files yet.
Read Michael Tarmoun’s public file here: