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A fired Honolulu police officer was sentenced to four years in prison Wednesday after pleading guilty to forcing a homeless man to lick a urinal.
John Rabago, 44, responded to a nuisance complaint at a Honolulu public restroom on Jan. 28, 2018. When he and another officer, Reginald Ramones, found a homeless man there, Rabago allegedly told the man he could only avoid arrest if he licked one of the bathroom’s urinals, according to a plea agreement Rabago signed.
Rabago threatened to beat the man and shove his face in a toilet if he refused, Judge Leslie Kobayashi said at his sentencing, according to the Associated Press. He grabbed the man’s shoulder, forced him to his knees and stepped on his legs until he complied, Kobayashi said.
Rabago laughed as he left the bathroom, telling fellow officers that he had just made the man lick a urinal, according to the plea agreement.
“You took from him his only possession: his dignity as a human being,” Kobayashi said, according to the AP.
The family of the victim, identified as 37-year-old Sam Ingall, alleged that the abuse went even further than that, according to Hawaii News Now. Ingall told his sisters that the officers made him to sit in urine before they forced his head into a toilet.
“He just said that they put him in the water and that he couldn’t breathe and the he was choking when they brought him up,” his sister, Mary Ingall, told the outlet.
The officers also allegedly struck Ingall in the arm with a stick, resulting in a large bruise, according to the sister.
Ingall did not report the abuse, and was surprised when a fellow officer reported Rabago and Ramones, the Mary Ingall told the outlet.
Both officers were fired, and following an FBI probe, they were arrested and ultimately agreed to plea deals. Rabago pleaded guilty to conspiracy against rights and deprivation of rights under color, according to his plea agreement. Ramones pleaded guilty to concealing a felony, according to his agreement.
This allegedly wasn’t the first time Rabago and Ramones had done something like this. Previously, Ramones had allegedly watched Rabago make a man put his head in a toilet by telling him that was the only way to avoid arrest, according to Ramones’s plea agreement.
At trial, Rabago expressed remorse and apologized to the victim and the victims' family.
“Two years ago I made a decision I’m not proud of,” he said, according to Associated Press. “My actions changed the course of life for all of us.”
But Rabago was taken by surprise when the court sentenced him to four years in prison on Wednesday, his attorney, Megan Kau, told Oxygen.com.
“I think the court looked at the atmosphere in the public right now and wanted to make a statement,” she said, referring to the recent surge of protests against police brutality.
She said she had been expecting a sentence of around 30 to 37 months, and referenced a 2015 case against Honolulu police officer Vincent Moore.
Moore pleaded guilty after kicking a man in the head, striking him in the face and throwing a metal stool at him in an unprovoked attack, according to a press release by the Honolulu district attorney’s office. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison.
Ingall also was not expecting the four-year sentence for Rabago, his lawyer, Myles Breiner, told the Associated Press.
“He’s pleasantly surprised that the court punished him appropriately,” Breiner said. “He was under the impression that they would coddle him and give him a minimum term, a very low sentence.”
Ramones is scheduled for sentencing next week.
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