Saturday, November 15, 2008

KPD Blue Chapter 15: A Stampede to the Courthouse: Part II: Mark Begley versus KPD

KPD Blue

by Anthony Sommer

Chapter 15: A Stampede to the Courthouse: Part II: Mark Begley versus KPD

On April 8, 2003, KPD Officer Mark Begley filed a lawsuit against his employers in federal court in Honolulu.

Mark Begley found the fastest (and most bizarre) track to promotion in the history of the KPD. In 2003, Begley, then a patrolman, sued the department claiming he was beaten and suffered permanent brain damage when he tried to expose an organized crime ring within the KPD. His lawsuit was tossed out by a federal judge. Three and a half years later, Begley was named deputy chief of the Kauai Police Department.

Begley’s lawsuit was prepared using the legal strategy of “throw lots of mud at the wall and see what sticks.”

Some of it may well have been true but there is so much overkill in the allegations that it was impossible to figure out which parts to believe.

It is educational to note that Begley’s attorney, Mark Zenger, later filed a similar scattergun lawsuit against the Kauai Fire Department on behalf of a Kauai lifeguard charging the KFD brass with everything but the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Begley’s lawsuit alleges:

• That Lt. Martin Curnan, at the time the head of the Vice Squad (which also, more importantly, is the defacto Narcotics Squad on an island where marijuana is a major cash crop) was a member of a criminal organization that included both KPD officers and civilians. The organization allegedly was in the business of officers seizing drugs from drug dealers but not turning the drugs in as evidence.

• That a KPD officer twice went to Kapaa High School and took possession of narcotics seized from students by school administrators. Allegedly, no police reports ever were filed by the officer and the drugs never were turned in as evidence.

• That when Begley complained to Chief Freitas, his complaint was ignored.

• That Curnan allegedly assaulted Begley, hitting him on the head so hard that he had to be flown by air ambulance to an Oahu hospital where he was treated for brain damage that has left him permanently disabled.

• That a woman who worked as a KPD confidential informant alleged that drugs she obtained in “controlled buys” were kept by Curnan and arrests never were made.

• That she also claimed she told the Curnan about two drug-related murders that never were investigated.

• That the same woman claimed she was raped by a relative of Curnan’s and was told the rape was a warning to keep her mouth shut about Curnan’s activities.

• That all of the members of the Vice Squad were either members of the criminal organization or had promised Curnan to ignore it.

Curnan retired. The case droned on for four years and finally came to trial before a federal magistrate (there was no jury). The magistrate ruled for Kauai County.

The only allegation that could be shown to be true is that Begley was in a fight and received permanent brain damage that has left him with a sometimes headache and a constant ringing in his left ear.

It was true Begley had been drinking at an abandoned sugar mill with Curnan and a civilian friend of Curnan’s named David Nawai.

Begley testified it was not uncommon for Vice Squad members to meet at remote locations for the purpose of getting very drunk both on and off duty, sort of the Kauai variant of Joseph Wambaugh’s novel, The Choir Boys. Begley admitted he was so drunk he couldn’t recall who hit him.

Curnan and Nawai claimed Begley took a swing at Nawai and Nawai hit him in self-defense. They said Begley’s head hit the pavement and, when they carried Begley to his truck to drive him home, Begley’s head accidentally hit the door frame.

The filing of Begley’s lawsuit reignited efforts in the mayor’s office to oust Freitas. It appeared clear Baptiste had been given a mandate to “Get Freitas” by his mentor, Maryanne Kusaka.

“We have a duty to seek the truth for our citizens,” pronounced new Mayor Bryan Baptiste, commenting on Begley’s charges.

During his tenure on the County Council, Baptiste never met an executive session or a locked government file cabinet that he did not love. “Seeking the truth” wasn’t exactly one of his virtues.

Baptiste announced he would call in the FBI.

Obviously, the county had learned from the Seto fiasco that all the Kauai Police Commission knew how to do was spend huge amounts of money to prove nothing.

The FBI wouldn’t cost Kauai County a cent and Baptiste liked anything he could get for free from the state or the feds.

Freitas said he had investigated every one of Begley’s claims and found nothing to turn over to the county prosecutor.

The chief said he would welcome an FBI probe and publicly urged his officers to cooperate.

Whether or not the FBI ever looked into Begley’s allegations will never be known. But no charges ever were filed by federal prosecutors. It can be assumed they found no basis for Begley’s accusations.

It would be easy to assume that Begley would never return to work at a department he considered so evil and corrupt.

That would be a false assumption.

Limited to a desk job by his “permanent brain damage,” Begley’s star immediately began to rise.

In fact his fast-track promotions up the KPD chain of command were nothing less than meteoric.

He became the KPD’s recruiting officer, quite literally the department’s poster child.

Begley was named “Police Officer of the Year” by the Kauai Police Commission.

In August 2007, Begley was promoted to lieutenant.

In November 2007, with less than three months in grade as a lieutenant, Begley was chosen by newly appointed Chief Darryl Perry as his deputy chief.

Asked how a chronic malcontent who had made outrageous charges against the KPD, none of which ever were proven, became deputy chief, former Chief K.C. Lum shrugged his shoulders: “That’s politics on Kauai.

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