A police officer in Honolulu pleaded guilty on Monday to forcing a homeless man to lick a public urinal to avoid arrest, according to Hawaii News Now.
The officer, John Rabago, later argued that he had been joking, but another officer who had been with him at the time said that Rabago had been aggressive and serious and that the man had knelt down and licked the urinal, taking the threat seriously.
According to the prosecution, when Rabago and the other officer were called for a nuisance complaint, they found 37-year-old Samuel Ingall in a stall in a shopping mall’s restroom, which Ingall frequently used to get cleaned up. Ingall reportedly said he would do “anything” to avoid arrest. Rabago, who described Ingall as uncooperative, responded with his ultimatum.
The other officer, Reginald Ramones, who as part of a plea deal agreed to testify against Rabago, said that Rabago had told him to shut the bathroom door to avoid security cameras before repeating the order to Ingall.
According to Hawaii News Now, Rabago and Ramones bragged about the incident to the other officers, laughing at Ingall’s humiliation. Another officer reported the incident to the department, triggering a federal civil rights investigation. Ramones said Rabago told him to delete their texts and lie to investigators, which he did.
Ingall told his two sisters that the officers had made him sit in urine and shoved his head in a toilet. They also reported that he had shown them a bruise on his arm where an officer had hit him with a stick.
In April, Rabago and Ramones were both arrested and pleaded not guilty. Ramones changed his plea in September, agreeing to a lesser charge of withholding information about a crime.
Ramones told authorities that Rabago had committed a similar crime before: Rabago once allegedly told another man in a public bathroom that he could avoid arrest if he stuck his head in the toilet. The man allegedly relented and followed Rabago’s order.
Rabago pleaded guilty on Monday to conspiring to deprive Ingall of his civil rights. He and Ramones will be sentenced in February. Ramones, because of his cooperation, is expected to receive only probation. Rabago faces up to 10 years in prison.