Police officer Dixon Kwon entered yesterday a guilty plea in connection with a car crash on As Gonno Highway in 2017 that resulted in serious injuries to his then-girlfriend passenger, and was slapped with a three-day house arrest sentence.
Kwon signed a plea deal with the government and pleaded guilty to the offense of reckless driving.
Superior Court Associate Judge Kenneth L. Govendo accepted the plea agreement and Kwon’s guilty plea.
Govendo sentenced the 24-year-old police officer to six months’ imprisonment, all suspended except for three days to be served as home confinement due to COVID-19
Kwon was given credit for 12 hours he had served when he was arrested.
Kwon was ordered to pay a $500 fine, plus a $25 court fee and $120 probation fee. He was required to pay the victim, Deedra Santos, restitution in an amount to be determined at a hearing.
The parties agree that the maximum amount of restitution shall not exceed $29,278.
Govendo said the Office of Adult Probation shall monitor any determined restitution.
The judge said should insurance cover any of this amount, such amounts paid by insurance shall be credited against the total restitution.
Govendo placed Kwon on two years of probation and required him to perform 100 hours of community work service.
Kwon was ordered to write a letter of apology to the victim. His driver’s license was suspended for six months except for employment-related purposes, and for any doctor’s appointment or medical emergencies.
According to the factual basis of the plea deal, on July 22, 2017 on Saipan, Kwon operated a motor vehicle “in a willful and wanton manner with disregard for the safety of persons or property.”
Assistant attorney general J. Robert Glass Jr. is counsel for the government. Charity Hodson is counsel for Kwon.
The Office of the Attorney General charged Kwon with driving while under the influence of alcohol causing bodily injury, reckless driving causing bodily injury, fleeing the scene of an accident, failure to have liability insurance, and failure to have liability insurance in possession.
For pleading guilty to reckless driving, the government moved to dismiss the remaining charges as part of the plea deal. The judge granted the motion.
Chief prosecutor John Bradley said yesterday that the case was substantially delayed because of ongoing litigation that arose from an internal investigation of the initial investigation of Kwon by the Department of Public Safety.
Bradley said after lengthy and repeated court hearings, Govendo found that DPS officers acted in bad faith when they lost files from that internal investigation.
He said that negative finding severely damaged the credibility of evidence related to Kwon’s alleged use of alcohol in connection with the criminal case.
Given those difficulties, Bradley said, OAG negotiated a guilty plea to reckless driving.
The chief prosecutor said the plea agreement is silent as to whether Kwon may continue to work as a police officer.
He said that employment decision is the responsibility of the DPS commissioner.
Bradley said they regret that DPS officers’ bad faith misconduct interfered with this investigation and prosecution and hope that DPS Commissioner Robert Guerrero will take action against any officers involved in that misconduct.
“Nonetheless, this conviction shows that police officers are not above the law,” Bradley said.
Kwon is still employed with DPS.
Last Jan. 8, Govendo denied Kwon’s motion to dismiss the case. But the judge ruled that DPS acted in bad faith when police officer Olympio Muna lost the internal investigation case file and police officer Alexander Sakisat discarded the audio records, because the finding’s potential exculpatory value was apparent at the time they were lost or destroyed.
However, Govendo said, Kwon can obtain comparable evidence by other reasonably available means.
Exculpatory evidence refers to evidence favorable to the defendant in a criminal case that tends to exonerate the defendant of guilt.
The judge said to warrant dismissal, lost or destroyed evidence “must be of such a nature that the defendant would be unable to obtain comparable evidence by other reasonably available means.”
Police said Kwon was driving his Nissan car on July 22, 2017, when the vehicle ran off the road on As Gonno Highway and hit a tree, causing serious injuries to his passenger, Santos.
When the officers responded to the area, Kwon was reportedly not at the scene, but Santos was there. Kwon was an off-duty Driving Under the Influence (DUI) officer at the time of the accident.