Corrections officer sentenced to 4 years supervision on meth charge

  • RICKY R. ESPEJO

A state corrections officer pleaded no contest last month to possessing methamphetamine.

Ricky R. Espejo, 59, of Pahala was sentenced Dec. 19 by acting Hilo Circuit Judge Kanani Laubach to four years court supervision and granted a deferred acceptance of his plea.

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That means if Espejo abides by the conditions of his sentence, the Class C felony conviction for third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug will be wiped from his record.

Espejo was also sentenced to a year in jail, with credit for the four days he served after arrest and the remainder taken under advisement.

In return for Espejo’s no contest plea, a charge of possessing drug paraphernalia was dropped.

The judge ordered Espejo to obtain a substance abuse assessment and follow any recommended treatment, to not drink alcohol or possess or take any illegal drugs or prescription drugs not prescribed to him, to submit to random drug testing, and to not own or possess firearms.

According to court documents, Espejo’s attorney, Deputy Public Defender Sherilyn Tavares, told the court Espejo had gone to Big Island Substance Abuse Council on his own and completed treatment, has no prior record and has lived a law-abiding life since his arrest on May 2, 2019. Tavares requested the deferral so Espejo could maintain his employment until retirement, the documents state.

Deputy Prosecutor Joseph Lee remained silent on the matter of deferral, documents state, but put on the record that there has been criticism about this case.

According to police, Espejo — who is assigned to Hale Nani Correctional Facility, a minimum-security jail on the southern outskirts of Hilo — was pulled over by a Hilo patrol officer just after midnight May 2 because the pickup truck he was driving had a defective brake light.

Police say the officer also discovered the weight tax and safety check stickers on the truck were expired.

The officer also saw drug paraphernalia in plain view. The officer arrested Espejo and a then-29-year-old woman passenger — identified in a police log as Krystal Kahalioumi of Hilo — and impounded the truck as evidence.

A search warrant was executed on the truck, and officers found paraphernalia items with methamphetamine residue, police said.

Kahalioumi was released from custody pending further investigation.

To date, she hasn’t been charged in this case, but in a separate case filed in January 2018, Kahalioumi pleaded guilty Aug. 8, 2019, to third-degree promotion of a dangerous drug and a felony charge of resisting an order to stop.

Sentencing is set for 8:30 a.m. Jan. 27 before Hilo Circuit Judge Henry Nakamoto.

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Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Toni Schwartz on Wednesday said Espejo, who has been with DPS since Sept. 16, 1996, remains “employed with the department pending the outcome of our ongoing due process internal investigative procedure.”

Email John Burnett at jburnett @hawaiitribune-herald.com.