County, blogger settle case against police
HILO — The Hawaii County Council has paid blogger Damon Tucker $17,500 to settle a lawsuit charging police officers roughed him up and damaged his equipment while he was shooting video of police responding to an early morning brawl outside a Pahoa nightspot.
A stipulation signed Tuesday by Deputy Corporation Counsel Kimberly Angay and Tucker’s attorney Gerard Lee Loy prohibits Tucker from talking about the settlement and states that the county denies liability or wrongdoing but is settling the case in the interest of compromise.
Tucker referred calls to Lee Loy, who didn’t return telephone messages Thursday or Friday.
The County Council had agreed with the settlement by an 8-0 vote in a Feb. 20 executive session. Tucker was originally seeking more than $250,000 in damages plus attorney’s fees, according to a Feb. 2, 2012, claim Lee Loy filed with the County Council.
Tucker, 42, suffered scrapes and bruises on his chest, shoulder, arm, legs and hand, according to photos he posted on his blog just after the Aug. 6, 2012, fracas outside the Pahoa Village Club. He said Patrol Officer James Waiamau threw him to the sidewalk and stepped on his hand, causing the injuries.
He also said Waiamau drove over his iPhone, damaging it.
Tucker was arrested on a misdemeanor obstruction of government operations charge, with Waiamau writing in his report that Tucker “repeatedly refused to stop physically pushing himself between officers while they were engaged in interviewing witnesses and suspects.” The charge was later dropped.
Waiamau no longer works for the department, according to the police.
Tucker sued Waiamau and Patrol Officer Matthew Bartz, another officer at the scene. Bartz remains employed by the department, according to a police spokesman.
“Damon was falsely arrested without probable cause,” Lee Loy said in the complaint. “He also suffered violation of his federal civil rights protected by the 1st Amendment, freedom of the press and freedom of speech to redress grievances involving government conduct and to inform the public of conduct of its officials, to photograph police officers in the performance of their duties while in a public area from a safe distance.”