A US judge sentenced a former Honolulu police officer to four years in prison on Wednesday for forcing a homeless man to leak a public urinal and told him to imagine someone doing this to his two young daughters.
The homeless was as defenseless and powerless as the children of the accused John Rabago, said District Judge Leslie Kobayashi.
"They took away his only property: his dignity as a human," said Kobayashi.
Rabago took an oath as a police officer to protect and defend, but instead used someone who was poor and homeless, she said.
44-year-old Rabago and another official had responded to a complaint in 2018 when they found the homeless man in a stall on a public toilet.
Rabago threatened to hit the man and stuff his face in a toilet if he didn't lick the urinal, Kobayashi said. Then he grabbed the man by the shoulder, held him and stepped on his legs to keep him on his knees until he licked the urinal, the judge said.
Rabago later told the other officer to delete text messages about the incident, Kobayashi said.
"I'm here to judge the worst of what you've done in your life," Kobayashi said. However, she noted that he should not allow the act to define his future.
The other officer, Reginald Ramones, has also left the department and is due to be sentenced next week. Ramones pleaded guilty to knowing that Rabago had committed a civil rights violation and had not informed the authorities.
Deputy U.S. attorney Tom Brady said that Rabago was sometimes a good officer and ultimately took responsibility by pleading guilty to having committed two civil rights violations in the case. However, he initially laughed at the incident and later denied that it had happened.
"To be homeless, not knowing where your next meal will be, to be forced to … lick a dirty urinal from a uniformed policeman. Only one word comes to mind: hopelessness, "said Brady.
Rabago apologized to the victim and his family. "I made a decision two years ago that I'm not proud of," he said. "My actions have changed the course of life for all of us."
His defense attorney Megan Kau said after the hearing that she and Rabago were awaiting a three-year sentence.
"I think she takes the national environment and makes it a role model," said Kau about the judge and protests against racial injustice and police misconduct across the country.
"It's not the same thing," said Kau, noting that Rabago is a Filipino American and knows the victim.
Earlier this year, the homeless man filed a lawsuit against the Honolulu Police Department and the city.
"He is pleasantly surprised that the court punished him appropriately," said his lawyer Myles Breiner. "He had the impression that they would pamper him and give him a minimum sentence, a very low sentence."