Pasadena officer accused of withholding evidence takes the stand

The sentencing of one man and retrial of another in the beating of a man at a Pasadena restaurant in 2009 are moving forward despite objections that a Pasadena police officer withheld crucial information.

Pasadena Police Officer Kevin Okamoto took the stand Wednesday at a hearing to determine whether he has now provided all evidence to defense attorneys representing Steven De Los Santos and Edward Damas. Okamoto was accused by defense attorneys of failing to turn over evidence potentially favorable to the defendants.

De Los Santos was convicted and is scheduled to be sentenced July 12.

Damas’ trial resulted in a hung jury.

The Damas trial took an unusual turn when defense attorney Michael Kraut accused Okamoto of failing to turn over several interviews and failed to provide contact information for two witnesses. One witness whose name had not been provided to the defense before trial ended up taking the stand.

The Pasadena Police Department launched an internal investigation into Okamoto’s conduct after receiving a complaint from Kraut.

On Wednesday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Teri Schwartz called a hearing to determine next steps in the two cases.

“I want to make sure everything required by law had been provided,” Schwartz said. “As we all know, we found out later in trial that there were things required to be provided that were not.”

Okamoto acknowledged he didn’t turn over a taped interview with witness Megan Cannon, who said she did not see the defendants assault the victim, and other material.

“In my eyes there was no relevance to this case,” Okamoto said.

In a question that would prompt one of several skirmishes between Kraut and Schwartz, Kraut asked, “Sir, who determines relevance?”

“Objection,” said Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Brook White.

“We’re not going there,” Schwartz said. “Sustained.”

Kraut grew frustrated when he was barred by Schwartz and objections from Alfredo Estrada, attorney for the Pasadena Police Officers’ Association, from asking Okamoto about why he didn’t originally turn over the Cannon interview.

A pre-trial hearing for Damas’ retrial is set for July 12.

Kraut had previously tried to get the case against Damas dismissed because of Okamoto’s conduct, but Schwartz denied the motion.

“I found there was no prejudice suffered by Mr. Damas since the content of Ms. Cannon’s statements came into the record and it was hearsay,” Schwartz said. “The issue before this court right now is whether or not you have everything -- not whether or not you had everything two years ago.”
-- Adolfo Flores, Times Community News

Twitter: @AdolfoFlores3