Attorneys representing families sickened by the 2021 Red Hill water crisis introduced a motion in Honolulu's U.S. District Court on Tuesday that alleges that Navy officials “recklessly destroyed ” text and phone records between two key officials.
According to the filing, the government says that the official phone of Capt. James “Gordie ” Meyer, then-commander of Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command Hawaii, was “wiped ” in spring 2022 during a “tech support incident, deleting all of the text messages, voicemails, and call logs on the iPhone.”
Capt. Erik Spitzer, then-commander of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, also had his official command phone wiped when he retired in June 2022 and handed command of the facility to Capt. Mark Sohaney, which is standard procedure when a new officer takes over. Lawyers representing the U.S. government said that in both cases the texts are now irretrievable, but lawyers representing the families argue the Navy failed to take sufficient efforts to preserve them when they had the chance.
“This is not an unsophisticated party; the Navy knows it has to preserve evidence,” said Kristina Baehr, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs. “After we filed our first (claims ) in February of 2022, the Navy knew that it had to preserve evidence, and it also knew who the key players were. … I'm not going to say it was intentional, but it was absolutely reckless.”