(TMU) – A former police officer in Honolulu is facing four years behind bars after he humiliated and dehumanized a homeless man by forcing him to lick a public urinal.
During sentencing for the civil rights crime, U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi asked former officer John Rabago, 44, to consider how it would feel if someone had committed the same ugly act against his two daughters.
“You took from him his only possession: his dignity as a human being,” Kobayashi said.
Kobayashi added that while Rabago had taken an oath to protect and defend the people, he instead took advantage of the poor and homeless, reports Associated Press.
In January 2018, Rabago and his partner Officer Reginald Ramones responded to a nuisance complaint about a man trespassing in a closed public restroom.
When the two officer arrived they found Samuel Ingall, who was living on the streets, in the bathroom. Desperate to not be arrested, Ingall pleaded with officers and said that he would do anything to avoid being thrown in jail.
The plea apparently whetted Rabago’s appetite for sadism. At that point, Rabago told the man that if he didn’t lick the urinal, he would shove the man’s face into the toilet and beat him, according to both Ingall and Ramones.
“If you lick the urinal you won’t get arrested,” Rabago said he told Ingall in a menacing tone.
Upon forcing Ingall to his knees and stepping on his legs, Ingall reluctantly obeyed the order.
Ingall accused the officers of forcing him to sit in urine and shoving his face into a filthy toilet anyway before leaving the scene.
Rabago also told his then-partner to delete all text messages regarding the incident, Kobayashi said. According to Ramones, Rabago was desperate to avoid prison time.
“I’m here to judge you on the worst thing you’ve done in your life,” Kobayashi said, adding that the act shouldn’t be allowed to define his future.
“Two years ago I made a decision I’m not proud of,” Rabago said in court, apologizing to both Ingall and his family. “My actions changed the course of life for all of us.”
Rabago was arrested a few months after the incident when Ingall’s siblings reported the details to police, who eventually flagged the crime for an FBI review. In December, Rabago pleaded guilty to the crime.
Ramones told the court that he had seen his partner abuse unhoused people in the past, and court documents show that Rabago had previously threatened another man with arrest if he didn’t stick his head into a toilet.
Ramones has also left the department and faces sentencing next week. Ramones pleaded guilty to failing to inform authorities about his ex-partner’s civil rights crime.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Brady said that while Rabago had a history of being a good officer, he had initially laughed off questions about his crime before flat-out denying that it occurred.
“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,” Brady said.