Former police officer faces lawsuit after pleading no contest to assault

A former police officer who got in trouble has received his punishment from a judge.

Now it looks like taxpayers may also have to pay.

A lawsuit is pending against the former officer and the Honolulu Police Department.

Keoki Duarte pleaded no contest to unauthorized entry into a motor vehicle and assault.

He was accused of beating a man in 2015 during a road dispute. He was off-duty at the time.

That man wants to sue for damages, and also wants changes made in the police department to help prevent any more of these incidents.

City taxpayers already paid a six-figure settlement for another lawsuit that involved Duarte as a police officer.

Eric Seitz, the victim’s attorney in the latest incident, says it could have been prevented if HPD did what it was supposed to do.

In 2015, Jonard Escalante told us about the incident, saying Duarte pulled him out of his truck in a rage after he accidentally hit Duarte’s car.

He said Duarte started beating him until other drivers stopped to help. Duarte has since been fired, but Escalante plans to sue him and HPD.

“It could become a very expensive piece of litigation and that’s going to be a taxpayer expense,” said Seitz.

Duarte was one of several officers involved in a civil lawsuit involving a hiker that was beaten in 2012. The hiker’s attorney tells us the city settled the lawsuit and paid $168,000.

Seitz says HPD should have red-flagged Duarte back then.

“I believe that if he had had adequate counseling, he would not have dragged my client out of the car and really scared him to death,” he said.

Seitz wants HPD to do more than just pay for damages to his client.

“More importantly that they’ll agree to adopt policies and practices to address the underlying problems,” Seitz said.

“Meaning if somebody has an incident similar to that, they will address it by having that officer go through some kind of anger management?” KHON2 asked.

“Absolutely,” he replied.

We reached out to the department to find out what happens when officers are involved in these types of incidents. Do they go through any type of retraining or anger management classes? So far there’s been no response.

Honolulu City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi says she would also like to know how HPD handles the problem.

“We don’t see a lot of reports, so I don’t know what happens when someone is actually charged with an offense,” she said.

Kobayashi says it can only help and save taxpayers from paying for future lawsuits.

“The bottom line is restore confidence in the police department,” she said. “We depend on them to protect us and to keep our city safe, so we want to know what’s going on in that department to keep us safe.”

We’ll let you know when we get that information from HPD.

As for Duarte, part of his sentence is to take anger management classes. If he does that and stays out of trouble, the criminal charges can get dismissed.

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