Former Honolulu Officer Sentenced for Forcing Homeless Man to Lick Urinal
On Wednesday, a U.S. judge sentenced John Rabago, a former Honolulu police officer, to four years in prison for forcing a homeless man to lick a public urinal.
- U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi said the homeless man was as defenseless and powerless as Rabago’s children, telling him to imagine someone forcing his two young daughters to lick the urinal.
- “You took from him his only possession: his dignity as a human being,” said Judge Kobayashi. Despite Rabago’s oath as a law enforcement official to protect and defend, he took advantage of someone poor and homeless, the judge said condemningly.
In 2018, Rabago and co-officer Reginald Ramones had responded to a nuisance complaint, finding the homeless man in a public restroom stall.
- Ex-officer Rabago had threatened to beat the homeless man and shove his face in the toilet unless he licked the urinal. Rabago grabbed the man’s shoulder, held him down, and stepped on his legs to keep him on his knees until he licked the urinal, said Judge Kobayashi.
- Rabago told his colleague, Ramones, to delete messages about the incident afterward. Ramones has also left the department and will be sentenced next week. Former officer Ramones pleaded guilty to knowing Rabago had committed a violation of civil rights and not reporting the incident to authorities.
- According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Brady, Rabago took responsibility by pleading guilty to the civil rights violations, but initially laughed about the incident and even denied its occurrence. Brady said: “To be homeless, not knowing where your next meal is going to be, to be forced to lick...a dirty urinal by a uniformed police officer. There’s only one word that comes to mind: hopelessness.”
- Former officer Rabago apologized to the man and his family: “Two years ago I made a decision I’m not proud of.”
“I’m here to judge you on the worst thing you’ve done in your life,” Kobayashi said.
Megan Kau, the defense attorney for Rabago, said she had expected a sentence closer to three years. After the judge’s ruling, Kau said, “I think she’s taking the national environment and making him an example,” referring to the national protests about racial injustice and police misconduct.