Their trial is scheduled for May 22.

The four Honolulu Police Department officers charged with felonies for their alleged role in a 2021 pursuit in Makaha that injured six people pleaded not guilty during a court appearance Thursday.

They have posted bail and await trial scheduled for May 22.

Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Steve Alm filed criminal charges against Officers Joshua Nahulu, Jake Bartolome, Robert Lewis III and Erik Smith on March 16.

The four officers remain on desk duty. Nahulu, Smith and Bartolome had their police powers removed soon after the incident, HPD spokesperson Michelle Yu said. Lewis’ police powers were removed only after he was arrested last week, Yu said.

The four accused officers are scheduled to stand trial together, according to Jan Kagehiro, director of communications for the Hawaii State Judiciary.

2023 March 23 CTY - Pool Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell. Honolulu Police Department police officers (back, L-R) Joshua Nahalu, Robert G. Lewis III, Jake R.T. Bartolome and Erik X.K. Smith make their initial court appearance with their attorneys (front, L-R) Howard Luke, Benjamin Ignacio, Pedric Arrisgado and Doris Lum. The four Honolulu police officers face felony charges in connection with a September 2021 police pursuit that ended in a crash that the officers allegedly fled and conspired to cover up. The officers plead not guilty.
Honolulu Police Department police officers (back row standing, from left) Joshua Nahalu, Robert G. Lewis III, Jake R.T. Bartolome and Erik X.K. Smith make their initial court appearance with their attorneys (front, from left) Howard Luke, Benjamin Ignacio, Pedric Arrisgado and Doris Lum. The officers pleaded not guilty. (Cindy Ellen Russell/Pool Photo/2023)

On Sept. 12, 2021, the officers allegedly chased a car full of people up Farrington Highway until it crashed, injuring all six passengers inside. The officers allegedly then fled, regrouped, then pretended not to know what had happened when they were dispatched back to the scene.

Nahulu was charged with a Class B felony for “collisions involving death or serious bodily injury.” The charge carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence. His lawyer, Richard Sing, declined to comment.

Lewis, Bartolome and Smith were charged with a Class C felony for “hindering prosecution in the first degree,” which carries a maximum five-year prison sentence. They were also charged with a misdemeanor for conspiring to hinder prosecution, punishable by a maximum one-year jail sentence.

Attorneys for those three officers declined or did not respond to requests for comment.

“Traffic collision cases involving injury and or death are complicated and frequently take a long time to investigate and charge,” Alm said in a statement.

“In this case we did our own investigation in addition to the work HPD did. Before we charge someone we must be convinced we can prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt with admissible evidence. It is more important to do this right than to do this quickly,” Alm said.

It remains unclear how the officers are paying for their attorneys in the criminal case.

The Honolulu Police Commission already has granted the requests of Bartolome, Nahulu and Smith’s for legal representation for a number of civil suits brought against them.

If the officers want representation for the criminal case, Honolulu Police Commission Chair Doug Chin said they must ask for it. Chin doesn’t know whether they have asked.

If the officers do, their requests will appear on a commission meeting agenda posted six days beforehand.

(Video description: Footage provided to Civil Beat by attorney Michael Stern taken from a 7-Eleven. The video shows the three police vehicles pursuing a Honda vehicle at a high rate of speed on Farrington Highway Sept. 12, 2021.) 

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