On Thursday, July 23rd, I was able to observe proceedings before the Honorable Judge Joe Moss, District Court of the Fifth Circuit, State of Hawai’i, Lihu’e Division. I have extensive background in criminal justice and this gave me an opportunity to observe Kaua’i County prosecuting attorney, Justin Kollar, in action. Kollar was elected to the position in 2012 by unseating Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho. Supporters of Justin claim he is dynamic, dashing and youthful. From my position in the court gallery, it was clear Mr. Kollar exudes charismatic charm as do most successful politicians.
A couple years prior, I had been a finalist to serve the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney (OPA) as the Administrative Coordinator. OPA liked my background working to establish Drug Courts, researching Probation & Parole policy, and detailing inmate populations in New Mexico’s jails and prisons. In addition, I had earned a Community Addiction Recovery Specialist (CARS) certification in 2011, which gave me some of the latest training on illicit substances, dependency and addiction. I have counseled inmates as well as community leaders about drug dependency. This was my first opportunity to observe Mr. Kollar in court. I found him to be an unethical bully!
Mr. Kollar described the defendant as a 26-year-old woman whose baby was 20 months at the time of the alleged infraction. She was not wearing a wedding ring and stood alone next to her assigned public defender, which suggested she was a single mother. There were no family or friends with her in the court room. She was dressed simply and appeared to be quite poor.
Mr. Kollar told the court a KPD officer had observed her allegedly texting while driving. When the officer pulled her over, he noticed a young baby in the backseat, properly restrained, and believed the woman to be intoxicated. It was about 4pm in the afternoon and the defendant registered a BLAC of 0.27 when measured at the station. Mr. Kollar claimed the high level of alcohol in her system this early in the day suggested the woman suffered addiction to alcohol. He did not report any other evaluation of her behavior that would support his claim of addiction.
Mr. Kollar then stepped up on his professional “soapbox” and told those attending the proceedings that cases “such as these are what keep me up at night.” Kollar claimed he obsessed about drunk driving, as such behavior put the offender and her young baby at risk, and posed a threat to the community. Nobody disagrees with Mr. Kollar. Driving under the influence of intoxicating substances concerns all of us. We all want solutions!
Yet Mr. Kollar carried his commentary to the point of extremism. He repeatedly bullied the young defendant. Shame on you for driving while intoxicated! Shame on you for drinking so much so early in the day! Shame on you for putting your baby at risk! Shame on you for threatening society this way! Shame! Shame! Shame!
I’m not here to defend this young woman. If the facts were accurate, she was wrong. She is fortunate she did not hurt herself, her baby or an innocent party. On the other hand, shame on Mr. Kollar! Based on the facts he presented, it is premature, unprofessional and unethical to suggest the woman suffers addiction. Mr. Kollar is a prosecutor, not an addiction counselor. He is not sufficiently trained, nor did it appear he sought expert advice about her situation, to draw this conclusion. This is highly unethical professional behavior.
Second, if a person is suffering addiction, shaming the individual is the WORST strategy to precipitate change. All addicts are ashamed. It’s one major reason they remain addicted. They have lost the “battle of will power” and this failure embarrasses them. The stigma of addiction keeps them from seeking help. An individual suffering addiction doesn’t want to tell anyone, doesn’t want anyone to know, as the individual is both ashamed and embarrassed. How then does it help the individual and society when the OPA chief shames the person in public? Yes, Mr. Kollar, she failed. Yes, Mr. Kollar, you have convinced her she is a miserable lowlife.
Third, as Mr. Kollar is an attorney, not an addiction specialist, he does not understand that leading experts consider addiction to be a disease, not simply the absence of will power or reckless behavior. Consider this: a family member has cancer. How effective would you be shaming the individual for contracting the disease? “Shame on you for getting sick! Shame on you requiring us to spend money on your illness!” Would that help her recovery?
Horrible, isn’t it? And, that is how this “dashing, youthful and charismatic” representative of Kaua’i spoke to this troubled woman. Shame on Justin Kollar! He’s a bully like Donald Trump.
Mr. Kollar asked the court to fine this poor woman $1,500 and incarcerate her for a minimum of 10 days. This is another failure. This woman is struggling. She is poor. Where will she get $1,500? She has lost her driver’s license. She may have lost her job. Rather than 10 days in jail, I would prefer she spend 10 days with an addiction specialist. She’ll learn nothing being incarcerated. The $1,500 fine enriches the State but she has no way to pay such as sum. Essentially, this young woman is climbing a steep mountain and Mr. Kollar added many heavy rocks to the pack on her back. Our society does not help those who need help. We simply add to their burden. This is why they continue to fail and why society is failing along with them. As Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho wrote to me shortly after I learned OPA had not selected me:
“Aloha Scott, You are such an inspiration … Every day I regret it more and more that I didn’t hire you. It was a huge mistake.”
Mr. Kollar failed this woman; he failed the residents of Kaua’i. While this woman failed herself, her young baby and society, we attribute her failure to her diseased brain. This is the power of addiction. It changes how we are wired. What was up is now down; one is no longer rational — one is in the grasp of power chemicals and substances. This process affects millions of Americans, and frankly, most of us are addicted to something. Maybe it’s nicotine from cigarettes, alcohol or illicit substances. On the other hand, it can be more common items, such as caffeine or even sugar. People can be addicted to sex, to working out or to that delicious chocolate snack. We need to be careful when pointing our finger at the one suffering addiction, as three fingers may be pointing back at ourselves.
What really bothered me about Mr. Kollar’s soapbox grandstand was his claim such cases kept him up at night. Strange! I had contacted KPD in mid-July 2014 about roommates in the home my wife and I rented for a brief period in Hanalei. Lead tenant was David Rodgers. He spent his days smoking weed and drinking massive quantities of alcohol. He began his day “waking and baking” marijuana, downing 2-3 beers, and then climbing into his massive 4X4 multi-ton diesel-fueled vehicle. He took a handful of beers for the drive and returned with another twelve to 24-pack. He was clearly impaired when he drove. I brought this to the attention of area KPD officers. Their reaction was “boys will be boys.” Can you believe it? This is your tax dollars at work.
Due to the lack of concern by KPD, I contacted Mr. Kollar. I heard nothing from him. He appeared uninterested. As I had worked on occasion with County Councilor Gary Hooser, I contacted him. Mr. Hooser took me seriously and pleaded my case to Mr. Kollar as well. Finally, on about August 4th, Mr. Kollar responded saying he would pass on my information to more senior KPD officers. There was no sense of urgency and Mr. Kollar definitely wasn’t losing sleep over this situation. I didn’t hear anything from authorities until a chance encounter on August 27th — nearly three weeks had passed. I finally met with KPD vice unit, Mike Ni’i and his partner, Brian, around September 9th. Mr. Kollar certainly wasn’t losing any sleep!
David Rodgers was, and likely still is, a leading drug dealer on the north shore. He and his friends grow weed in the nearby hills and distribute to locals and visitors in small, one-gram cellophane packets around Ching Young Village and Black Pot beach. These dealers are generally underemployed and live off their drug profits. KPD was not concerned; Mr. Kollar was not concerned. Nobody was losing sleep about this criminal behavior. Shame on Kauai’s leaders! This is your tax dollars at work.
To this day, whenever I hear the roar of a large diesel truck, I wonder if it is David Rodgers. It continues to scare me. David admitted to me he suffered addiction to both alcohol and marijuana. I counseled him a couple times — even offered him $200 if he passed his required drug test as part of the probation he served with the State. He lasted three days before he relapsed. Although he was required to be sober for his mandatory drug test, he wasn’t. No penalty — again, an attitude of “boys will be boys” by the Kaua’i criminal justice system. David Rodgers will kill someone one day. Justin Kollar will probably climb up on his political soapbox and tell the public such cases keep him up at night.
It’s likely David Rodgers continues to suffer addiction. He never got help he needs. Mr. Kollar opportunistically bullied a poor, single woman apparently to further his career as a “tough on crime” prosecutor, yet Justin did nothing when this professional drug dealer on the north shore and decades-long addict threatened Kaua’i residents with his massive multi-ton vehicle.
Unethical, bullying behavior in front of the public but unconcerned when it counts. This is the leadership of Justin Kollar, Kaua’i County Prosecuting Attorney. Remember this next election.