A Honolulu police officer pleaded guilty Monday to a civil rights charge for forcing a homeless man to lick a public urinal in order to avoid arrest, according to the Washington Post.
John Rabago pleaded guilty to conspiring to deprive the homeless man, Samuel Ingall, of his civil rights in a January 2018 encounter.
Ingall regularly used a bathroom in the shopping district to clean himself up. He was a regular at this particular bathroom, which an employee would sometimes unlock for him.
One day, someone called the police because they objected to Ingall being in the bathroom. Five officers responded to the call. Rabago arrived first and confronted Ingall. He admitted in his plea agreement that he told Ingall “in an aggressive tone” that he had two choices: He could go to jail, or he could lick the urinal.
Another officer, Reginald Ramones, arrived after Rabago. Rabago told Ramones to close the door to avoid being recorded on security cameras, then issued the ultimatum to Ingall again.
Ingall, a 37-year-old man who has been in and out of jail and struggles with drug addiction, licked the urinal to avoid incarceration. Rabago let him leave, allegedly laughing and telling other officers what he made Ingall do.
One of the other officers filed a complaint about the situation to the department, triggering a civil rights investigation that resulted in Rabago and Ramones being arrested in April 2018. The both initially pleaded not guilty, claiming that it was a joke that was misinterpreted.
Months later, in September, Ramones came clean. He pleaded guilty to withholding information about a crime, told investigators what Rabago did in that bathroom, and also said Rabago told him to delete related text messages and tried to coach him on how to lie to investigators.
Ramones also revealed that Rabago gave a similar ultimatum to a homeless man in a public park before the incident with Ingall. In that scenario, Ramones said, the homeless man ended up sticking his head in a toilet.
Ramones faces up to three years in prison, but will likely receive only probation. Rabago faces up to 10 years in prison. They both face fines up to $250,000, and will be sentenced in February.
Ramones has since left the department, and Rabago is expected to be fired.