WAILUKU - A man who admitted he bit a police officer but claimed to be acting in self-defense was found guilty of a felony charge of assault on a law enforcement officer.
In verdicts returned Thursday morning, a 2nd Circuit Court jury also found Jerome Payne not guilty of disorderly conduct in the Aug. 21 incident at Kahului Airport.
That afternoon, police officers were called to the airport after Payne first refused to put out a cigarette while sitting on a planter box outside the baggage claim area, said Marvin Moniz, Maui District airport manager. He testified that Payne, who was in a no-smoking area of the airport, smoked two cigarettes and laid down on a concrete slab when airport police officers asked Payne to leave.
Payne spoke loudly and swore while saying he wasn't leaving, causing airport passengers including a woman pushing a stroller to avoid the area, Moniz said.
Maui Police Department officers Craig Stephens and Grant Nakamura showed up at about 5:25 p.m. When the officers approached Payne, he sat up, Stephens said. When he asked Payne for identification, Stephens said Payne twice responded, "F - - - you, you figure it out."
Stephens said he told Payne he would be arrested if he didn't leave. In a loud and angry tone, Payne said, "F - - - you, I ain't going anywhere," Stephens testified.
When Stephens got out his handcuffs and he and Nakamura were grabbing Payne's arms, he struggled and the officers fell with Payne as he went backward into the planter box.
Stephens said he felt pain as Payne bit the officer's left hand, leaving puncture marks that are still visible. Stephens warned Nakamura because Payne appeared to be trying to bite Nakamura's leg that was near Payne's mouth.
To try to get Payne to comply, Stephens said he punched Payne three times on the left side of his face and Nakamura drew his Taser, holding it on Payne's chest and warning it would be used if Payne didn't stop resisting.
When Payne "stopped momentarily," the officers handcuffed him. The officers had positioned Payne so he was sitting up when he spat on Nakamura's face, Stephens said.
The incident was captured on airport surveillance video that was shown to the jury.
"The clincher is the defendant's own testimony where he said he bit officer Stephens to get him off him," Deputy Prosecutor Jerrie Sheppard said in closing arguments to jurors Wednesday. "That's not protective force. That's assaultive force."
According to an instruction read to jurors, use of "self-defense" or "protective force" is not justified to resist an arrest by a law enforcement officer.
Payne, 35, who gave police a Houston address, has been jailed at the Maui Community Correctional Center in lieu of $50,000 bail since his arrest.
He is scheduled to be sentenced March 18.
Judge Joseph Cardoza presided over the trial.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at email@example.com.