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Case against police officer taken over by feds

As a result, local officials can’t charge Saffeels, say Maui officials

BRANDON SAFFEELS, Released from bail bond

Because the federal government has taken over prosecution, the state can’t file charges against a Maui Police Department officer who was arrested last month after he allegedly sent text messages and made a phone call offering to help get a case thrown out for a woman he arrested for DUI, officials said Friday.

Brandon Saffeels had his $50,000 bail bond released on Thursday, when he had been scheduled to make an initial appearance in Wailuku District Court, said his attorney, Victor Bakke.

“The prosecutors failed to file any charges,” Bakke said. “There was not even a court hearing.”

Last month, police charged Saffeels with attempted perjury, attempted first-degree hindering prosecution and witness tampering after a woman reported the officer sent her text messages and called her after arresting her for DUI in the early-morning hours of July 25.

Saffeels invited her to his house and offered to testify in a way that would help her if her case went to trial, according to a Hawaii News Now story that aired Aug. 20.

After learning about the allegations from the news reporter, police investigated and arrested Saffeels on Aug. 26 when he returned from vacation and stepped off a flight at Kahului Airport.

Saffeels, 35, who has been an MPD officer for four years, was placed on unpaid leave from his job, police said.

Maui County First Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Robert Rivera said the state can’t move forward with prosecution because federal authorities took jurisdiction of the case against Saffeels.

“Hawaii law precludes dual prosecution if the federal government has jurisdiction,” Rivera said Friday.

Police Chief Tivoli Faaumu said Saffeels remains on leave without pay.

“We’re continuing our investigation,” Faaumu said Friday.

He said he also was informed that the federal government was adopting the criminal case.

“I want to reassure the community that there will be closure to the case and also to the victim, meaning the case will be adjudicated,” Faaumu said.

Bakke questioned why Saffeels was released Thursday if he still faces prosecution.

“My client gave a full statement,” Bakke said Friday. “We argue that this woman’s not credible. Our position is these charges never should have been filed.”

Bakke said there were “rumors that the feds might be reviewing him.”

“They don’t have the case now that they thought they had a month ago,” Bakke said. “We were told he had done these horrible things to at least three different women and suddenly the guy’s free to do whatever he wants. Right now there’s nothing.”

Honolulu attorney Michael Green, who represents the woman who was arrested by Saffeels for DUI, said three women have come forward to say they were solicited by the officer.

“With the email and text messages I sent them, there is no way in hell I would not prosecute that case,” Green said. “Tell them not to open the champagne yet.”