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State briefs for October 28

Ex-Maui officer pleads not
guilty in sex solicitation case

HONOLULU (AP) — A former Maui police officer pleaded not guilty Tuesday to an indictment accusing him of soliciting sex from a woman he pulled over for operating a vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant.

Before a grand jury indicted Brandon Saffeels last week, he was expected to plead guilty. However, the judge didn’t accept his plea because he was only willing to acknowledge that he offered to sabotage the woman’s DUI case and not that he expected sexual favors in return — as prosecutors alleged.

The indictment, which charges him with honest services wire fraud, says he used his police access to obtain the woman’s telephone number to solicit sex from her in exchange for giving false testimony at her trial.

“They really don’t talk about sex,” his defense attorney, Victor Bakke, said after the hearing. “The real problem in this case is they’re overcharging the case. They’re trying to prosecute him for some predatory type of behavior and that’s not what the charge is.”

According to the indictment one of Saffeels’ text messages to the woman said, “You will be ok. You need a shoulder to cry on is all and someone to hold u.”

Prosecutors said he instructed the woman to come to his house and in one text message said, “Just come. Bring clothes.”

The woman felt Saffeels’ statements to her were a bribe for sex, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mohammad Khatib said last week. She interpreted his statements as “sexual overtures,” he said.

Maui prosecutors dropped the DUI
charge against the
woman after portions of text messages and recorded phone conversations were published by the media, Khatib said.

Saffeels is scheduled to go trial in December. He is free on $25,000 bond and participated in the hearing by telephone from Maui.

Minor injuries in hard landing after helicopter loses power

HONOLULU (AP) — A helicopter carrying a Hawaiian Electric contractor lost power and made a hard landing in Honolulu Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the utility said.

The pilot sustained minor injuries, the Honolulu Fire Department said.

The contractor was transporting material near the Nuuanu Reservoir and no Hawaiian Electric employees were on board when the helicopter crashed, said spokeswoman Shannon Tangonan.

Employees were at a safe distance when the helicopter came down, she said. Two people on the ground were not injured, the fire department said.

The pilot of the Hughes 369D helicopter reported engine failure and made an emergency landing on mountainous terrain at about noon, Ian Gregor, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration said.

The FAA will investigate.

rentals can operate after restrictions end

HONOLULU (AP) — Oahu’s short-term vacation rental industry can operate again after the lifting of coronavirus restrictions that hammered business.

The island’s vacation rental occupancy for September fell to 14.5%, a 59% decrease from September 2019. The Hawaii Tourism Authority released the figures in a report last week.

Rentals were sidelined by Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s pandemic restrictions beginning on April 7. Oahu moved into the next phase of its economic reopening Thursday, allowing about 800 short-term rental properties to resume business along with those on neighboring islands.

Rentals offering stays of 30 days or less that were not used to quarantine guests were allowed to operate on the Big Island, Kauai and Maui beginning in June when the state’s first interisland quarantine was lifted.

Oahu’s vacation rental supply in September fell more than 56% to 97,989 units. The island’s rental demand dropped to 14,160 units, although the nearly 92% decrease was not as steep as on Maui or Kauai.

September occupancy at Maui County vacation rentals decreased to 5.4%. Maui’s supply declined more than 48%, to 151,521 units, and demand dropped more than 96%, the most of any island, to 8,151 units.

Kauai’s vacation rental occupancy decreased to 5.6%, while supply fell nearly 49%, to 62,133 units.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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