Jury Finds 3 Former HCCC Officers Guilty in Jailhouse Beating
A federal jury convicted three former correctional officers at the Hawai‘i Community Correctional Center for assaulting an inmate in violation of his civil rights and for obstructing justice in attempting to cover up the violation.
Jason Tagaloa, 31, Craig Pinkney, 38, and Jonathan Taum, 50, were found guilty July 8 after a three-week trial, a news release from the United States Justice Department stated on Monday, July 11.
A fourth officer, Jordan DeMattos, previously pleaded guilty for his role in the assault and cover up, and testified for the government at trial. After the verdict, Judge Leslie Kobayashi ordered the U.S. Marshals to take the defendants into custody pending their sentencing hearings.
The evidence at trial established that the defendants assaulted the inmate in the prison’s recreation yard, the release stated. Over the course of two minutes, the defendants punched and kicked the inmate in the head and body while he was lying face-down in a pool of his own blood. The inmate suffered a broken nose, jaw and eye socket. After the beating, the defendants wrote false reports in which they omitted almost all of the force they had used. When the prison opened an investigation, the defendants met to get their stories straight and brainstorm false excuses they would give for having used force.
Ultimately, the Hawai‘i Department of Public Safety fired all four officers.
“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.”
The maximum penalties for the charged crimes are 10 years of imprisonment for the deprivation of-rights offense, 20 years of imprisonment for the false report offenses and five years of imprisonment for the conspiracy offense.
“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 Hawai‘i. “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.”