DLNR officer accused of sex assault takes the stand
A state Department of Land and Natural Resources enforcement officer on trial for the alleged sexual assault of a then-16-year-old girl on a Hilo beach on New Year’s Day 2016 admitted Wednesday he kissed the girl but testified she initiated it.
“That was inappropriate,” Ethan Ferguson told the jury of seven men and five women about his own behavior.
The 40-year-old Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officer is charged with two counts of second-degree sexual assault and three counts of fourth-degree sexual assault.
Ferguson said he responded to a call about possible turtle harassment at Lalakea Beach Park in Keaukaha. He said he saw “a woman” in the water near a turtle at Lalakea Pond. He said he “noticed a strong smell of marijuana in the air” when he approached her.
“I did say something to the effect of, ‘Some kind of weed up here,’” Ferguson said, but added he didn’t see anyone smoking marijuana. He said he didn’t see any turtle harassment, “so I gave some education.”
Ferguson testified the girl — whom he kept referring to as a woman — gave him a phony name, but replied her ID was in her car when he asked for it. The officer said he was taking her to where she said her car was parked, and the teen, walking behind him, tripped and bumped into him twice, ending up on top of him, and said she was sorry for lying.
“She said, ‘I don’t have a car, any ID in my car,’” Ferguson said.
Ferguson said he told the young woman she was not in trouble, and he was just giving her a warning, and she “kind of stepped in.”
“I thought she was gonna give me an aloha kiss, you know, yeah,” he said. Ferguson described an aloha kiss as “a kiss on the cheek or a peck on the lips or maybe forehead-to-forehead.”
“So what happened? Did she actually give you an aloha kiss?” Ferguson’s lawyer, Mirtha Oliveros, asked.
“Um, this was, uh, more than an aloha kiss,” he replied.
Ferguson said the girl thanked him for not arresting her and she kissed him on the lips again.
“The second time, I kissed her back,” Ferguson said.
“Was that the right thing to do?” Oliveros inquired.
“Was that the right thing to do? Uh, no,” Ferguson answered.
He said the girl then rubbed his then-shaved head and put her fingers in his mouth while kissing his “cheek and neck area.” Ferguson added she moved her hands to his waist, and he pushed her away and said, “Nuff already, you’re wasting my time. I’m on my lunch break.”
“I was mostly thinking about my gun belt area, you know, officer safety kind of stuff,” he said. Ferguson said he picked up the girl’s hair clip, gave it to her and walked quickly back to his truck.
On cross-examination, Deputy Prosecutor Haaheo Kahoohalahala questioned why, if Ferguson was concerned about officer safety, he allowed the girl to walk behind him on the path, especially after she tripped the first time, and why his report mentioned only turtle harassment at Carlsmith Beach Park and not “a strong smell of marijuana.”
“So even though you didn’t see any violation or crime, you took it upon yourself to educate the young woman, even though she wasn’t harassing the turtle?” Kahoohalahala asked.
“That’s correct,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson said that “in retrospect” he should have made a more detailed report that documented the encounter between himself and the young woman.
“I was kind of embarrassed. I have a wife,” he said.
Ferguson is on paid administrative leave from DLNR pending the outcome of his trial. He was fired from the Honolulu Police Department for reportedly lying to supervisors about transporting a juvenile female runaway and falsifying reports before his 2013 hiring as an officer by the state agency.
His mother, Jackie Ferguson-Miyamoto, is president of the Hawaii Government Employees Association, the union representing DOCARE officers.
Ferguson’s testimony concluded late Wednesday afternoon. Trial continues at 8:45 a.m. today in Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura’s courtroom.
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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