County to defend police in excessive force lawsuit


By ERIN MILLER

Stephens Media

The Hawaii County Council last week authorized Corporation Counsel to represent five police officers facing a federal lawsuit on claims of excessive force during a 2010 arrest.

The council also approved, in a 6-2 vote, to concur with county attorneys’ recommendations to indemnify the officers from any punitive damages, Corporation Counsel Lincoln Ashida said Wednesday. South Kona/Ka‘u Councilwoman Brenda Ford and Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille voted no. Ford declined to discuss her vote and Wille did not respond to a message Wednesday.

Nicole Namordi filed the civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Honolulu in August, claiming the officers — Jason Hamada, Aron Tomota, Gregg Karonis, Mike Thompson and C. Gray — used excessive force while investigating a complaint at her Kailua-Kona home, injuring her and causing a “loss of her freedom, deprivation of her liberties and other consequential damages,” the lawsuit said. The complaint also names Hawaii County as a defendant.

Namordi was at home Aug. 29, 2010, when officers arrived at the house investigating a complaint of abuse of a family member. They woke her 10-year-old son to ask him if he had been injured, then arrested Namordi, allegedly throwing her to the ground. Prior to the arrest, Namordi said she asked the officers why they were in her home.

“As she questioned them, (Namordi) presented no immediate threat to (the) officers or any other person,” the complaint said. “Suddenly and without warning or apparent justification, Hamada grabbed and twisted (Namordi’s) left arm and cuffed her wrist very tightly.”

When Namordi again questioned the officers, “at least five” police officers grabbed her and forced her to the ground, according to the complaint.

Namordi was eventually charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, but the charges were subsequently dropped because of a lack of sufficient evidence, the complaint said. The complaint argues the officers acted outside their scope of employment, that their actions violated the 4th Amendment, which provides protections for someone in their own home and prohibits unlawful search and seizure, that her arrest was unlawful, that police officers intentionally inflicted emotional distress and that the officers acted negligently, among other charges.

Eric Seitz, Namordi’s attorney, said the Hawaii County Police Commission did discipline one police officer based on Namordi’s complaint. Seitz said disciplinary actions are confidential and he and Namordi did not have any additional information.

Deputy Corporation Counsel Michael Udovic said he was unable to comment on possible disciplinary actions. Hawaii County Code calls for indemnifying police officers — exempting the officers from having to personally pay for any punitive damages awarded during a lawsuit — as long as the officers are acting within the scope of their job duties, Udovic said.

Namordi is seeking an unspecified amount of damages. Seitz said he hopes the county will agree to settle the case without proceeding to trial. A settlement conference is scheduled for October, according to court documents. A judge ordered the parties to negotiate prior to the conference.

Email Erin Miller at emiller@westhawaiitoday.com.

 

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