Air Force Reservist Convicted of Misdemeanor Homicide after Crash that Killed Police Officer
In January 2012, an Air Force Reservist was driving to the airport on his way to reserve training at Lackland AFB, TX. Unbeknownst to him a motorist with a flat tire came to a complete stop in the fast lane of the freeway that had no shoulder so he was sitting in the flow of traffic. A Honolulu Police Department officer stopped his squad car behind the truck with a flat tire.
Moments later the defendant crashed into the back of the police officer’s vehicle with the police officer in it causing the truck to flip over and spin the squad car around. The initial impact killed the police officer. The car caught fire and was quickly engulfed in flames.
Two days later he contacted military criminal defense attorney, Noel Tipon and retained the firm to represent him. Mr. Tipon assisted the defendant through the initial arrest and bail process. The police investigation took over a year and a half to complete. The defendant was indicted for Manslaughter where he faced a maximum jail sentence of 20 years in State prison. The Prosecutor’s office put three different prosecutors on the case prior to trial before settling on one of the most experienced prosecutors from the Felony Trials Division.
The prosecutor stacked the deck against the defendant to ensure a conviction. They hired two separate experts to analyze the crash. The first expert from the Honolulu Police Department, removed the airbag control module from the defendant’s truck and downloaded crash and deployment data. Their experts examined the data and concluded the defendant was traveling 83 MPH at the time of the accident and no brakes were applied prior to the crash. The HPD expert conducted an examination of the defendant’s truck and also concluded the truck was in perfect working condition and there were no mechanical defects that could have caused the accident. The second government expert calculated the defendant’s speed at the time of the accident was 92 MPH.
The defense called an accident reconstruction expert who further scrutinized the police investigation. He testified the same exact accident could have occurred had the defendant been driving 60 MPH. Through the testimony of another expert, Attorney Tipon demonstrated the fire that started after the crash was a result of a faulty design in the vehicle manufacturing.
The prosecutor’s case comprised over 40 listed witness who testified over the course of two weeks. The trial continued for over a month while Mr. Tipon cross examined all the witnesses, exposing holes in the state’s case. Mr. Tipon was able to prove the defendant was not acting recklessly while driving.
After a week of deliberations, the jury found the defendant not guilty of manslaughter. Instead he was found guilty of misdemeanor negligent homicide with a maximum jail penalty of 1 year.
This case took four years to go to court. It showcased the outstanding legal advocacy of attorney Noel Tipon and the entire Bilecki & Tipon team. With the help of our investigators, trial consultants, expert witnesses, paralegals, law clerks and secretarial staff, attorney Tipon was able to win the defendant a lesser charge down from felony manslaughter to misdemeanor negligent homicide.
If you are a member of the military and have been recently charged with a crime, it is in your best interests to retain an experienced military criminal defense attorney. We proudly serve, Hawaii, Okinawa, Japan, California and Korea.