After a three-week trial, a federal jury found Jason Tagaloa, 31, Craig Pinkney, 38, and Jonathan Taum, 50, guilty of assaulting a prisoner in violation of his civil rights and obstructing justice by attempting to hide the violation on July 8. All three were former correctional officers at the Hawaii Community Correctional Center.
Jordan DeMattos, a fourth officer, earlier entered a guilty plea for his part in the attack and cover-up and provided government testimony throughout the trial. Judge Leslie Kobayashi instructed the U.S. Marshals to detain the defendants until their sentence hearings after the jury returned its judgement.
The defendants assaulted the prisoner in the recreation yard, according to the evidence presented at trial.
The detainee lay face down in a pool of his own blood for two minutes while the defendants kicked and punched him in the head and torso. The prisoner’s nose, jaw, and eye socket were fractured.
The defendants made up false reports about the beating that they almost entirely left out of. The defendants gathered when the jail started an investigation to clarify their accounts and come up with fictitious justifications for having used force. The Hawaii Department of Public Safety ultimately dismissed all four policemen.
“These defendants abused the trust given to them as law enforcement officers when they violently assaulted an inmate and lied to cover it up,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
“The Justice Department will prosecute corrections officials who violently assault inmates inside our jails and prisons, and abuse their official positions to cover-up their crimes. We are committed to using our civil rights laws to ensure that the rights of all individuals, including those in custody, are fully protected.”
“This prosecution and verdict affirm our office’s commitment to ensuring every person’s civil rights are protected under the law,” said U.S. Attorney Clare E. Connors for the District of Hawaii. “We will continue to enforce those rights the Constitution and other federal laws provide.”
“The FBI will always investigate when a person’s civil rights are violated,” said Special Agent in Charge Steven Merrill of the FBI Honolulu Field Office. “As correctional officers, they were held to upholding the standards of law enforcement officers within the state prisons and they did not do so in this case. The FBI will vigorously pursue justice for those whose civil rights were violated.”
The maximum sentences for the offences accused are 10 years in jail for the violation of rights, 20 years in prison for making false reports, and 5 years in prison for the violation of conspiracy.
The probe was done by the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Nolan of the District of Hawaii, together with Trial Attorney Thomas Johnson and Special Litigation Counsel Christopher J. Perras of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, prosecuted the case.
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