Three Former Hawaii Correctional Officers Convicted of Civil Rights Violations for Assaulting an Inmate and Attempting to Cover it Up

Three former Hawaii correctional officers convicted of civil rights violations for assaulting and covering up an inmate's brutal assault. Justice will be served.

In a recent trial, three former correctional officers at the Hawaii Community Correctional Center were convicted of civil rights violations for assaulting an inmate and attempting to cover it up. Jason Tagaloa, Craig Pinkney, and Jonathan Taum were found guilty of assaulting the inmate and obstructing justice by falsifying reports and conspiring to hide the use of force. The evidence presented showed that the defendants punched and kicked the inmate while he was lying defenseless in the prison’s recreation yard, causing severe injuries. Following the jury’s verdict, the U.S. Marshals took the defendants into custody pending their sentencing hearings. The conviction sends a strong message that the Justice Department will not tolerate such abuses of power and will use civil rights laws to ensure the protection of all individuals, even those in custody.

Civil Rights Violations Conviction

Details of the Conviction

In a significant development, three former correctional officers at the Hawaii Community Correctional Center, namely Jason Tagaloa, Craig Pinkney, and Jonathan Taum, were convicted by a federal jury for assaulting an inmate in violation of his civil rights and for obstructing justice in attempting to cover up the violation. The conviction came after a three-week trial, where the evidence presented established that the defendants had violently assaulted the inmate in the prison’s recreation yard. This conviction highlights the commitment of the justice system to hold accountable those who abuse their authority and violate individuals’ civil rights.

Defendants’ Actions

The defendants, Jason Tagaloa, Craig Pinkney, and Jonathan Taum, were found guilty of assaulting the inmate in a brutal manner. Over a span of two minutes, the defendants repeatedly punched and kicked the inmate, who was lying face-down in a pool of his own blood. Their actions resulted in severe injuries to the inmate, including a broken nose, jaw, and eye socket. Such excessive use of force by correctional officers is a clear violation of an individual’s civil rights and cannot be tolerated.

Impact on the Inmate

The assault inflicted by the defendants had a profound physical and psychological impact on the inmate. The injuries sustained by the inmate, including the broken bones in his face, caused immense pain and suffering. The lasting effects of this traumatic experience will likely continue to affect the inmate long after the incident. It is crucial to recognize the harm caused by such actions and ensure that the rights and well-being of all individuals, including those in custody, are protected.

Sentencing Hearings

Following the jury’s verdict, Judge Leslie Kobayashi ordered the U.S. Marshals to take the defendants into custody, pending their sentencing hearings. The sentencing phase of the judicial process will play a crucial role in determining the appropriate penalties for the convicted defendants. It is an opportunity for the court to consider various factors, such as the severity of the offenses and the defendants’ backgrounds, ensuring that justice is served and that the punishment corresponds to the gravity of their actions.

Maximum Penalties

The defendants in this case face significant penalties for their civil rights violations and obstruction of justice. The maximum penalties for the charged crimes include 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. These penalties reflect the seriousness of the offenses committed by the defendants and emphasize the importance of upholding civil rights and ensuring the accountability of law enforcement officials.

Background Information

Former Hawaii Correctional Officers

The individuals involved in this case were former correctional officers at the Hawaii Community Correctional Center. As correctional officers, they were entrusted with the responsibility to maintain the safety and well-being of inmates, ensuring their rights are protected. However, the actions of Jason Tagaloa, Craig Pinkney, and Jonathan Taum violated this trust and demonstrated a severe breach of their duties as law enforcement officers.

Assault of an Inmate

The assault of an inmate by correctional officers is a grave violation and undermines the principles of justice and accountability. In this particular case, the defendants subjected the inmate to a brutal assault, inflicting severe injuries. This incident highlights the urgency to address the issue of excessive force and violence perpetrated by those in positions of authority, particularly within correctional facilities.

Attempted Cover-Up

In addition to the assault itself, the defendants engaged in a concerted effort to cover up their actions. They wrote false reports, omitting crucial details about the force used during the assault. When an investigation was initiated, the defendants met to consolidate their stories and create false excuses for their use of force. These attempts to obstruct justice and conceal their wrongdoing further compounded their offenses, adding an additional layer of criminality to their actions.

The Assault Incident

Location and Time of the Incident

The assault took place in the recreation yard of the Hawaii Community Correctional Center, where inmates typically have allocated time for outdoor activities and exercise. The incident occurred during the prisoners’ designated recreation time, which is an essential aspect of their daily routine within the correctional facility. The assault within this space intended for inmate well-being and rehabilitation is particularly alarming.

Duration and Severity of the Assault

The assault on the inmate lasted for approximately two minutes, during which the defendants continuously punched and kicked the inmate. Their violent actions left the inmate defenseless and vulnerable, as he lay face-down in a pool of his own blood. Such a prolonged and brutal assault demonstrates a clear abuse of power and a complete disregard for an individual’s safety and well-being.

Inmate’s Injuries

The inmate suffered severe injuries as a result of the assault perpetrated by the defendants. The forceful blows to his face and body caused him to sustain a broken nose, jaw, and eye socket, among other injuries. These injuries inflicted significant pain and trauma on the victim, requiring medical intervention and potentially resulting in long-term physical and emotional consequences. The lasting impact of such injuries on the inmate’s life cannot be underestimated.

Obstructing Justice

Writing False Reports

To conceal their misconduct, the defendants deliberately wrote false reports following the assault. These reports downplayed or entirely omitted the force used during the incident. By providing inaccurate information in an official capacity, the defendants aimed to mislead investigators and prevent the truth from coming to light. Such falsification of official documents undermines the integrity of the justice system and obstructs the pursuit of truth and justice.

Consolidating Stories

The defendants, in an attempt to align their narratives and present a unified front, met to consolidate their stories after the assault. This coordination of accounts allowed them to craft a coherent and misleading narrative that could potentially deceive investigators and undermine any subsequent investigation. This concerted effort to present a false version of events serves as a stark reminder of the lengths some individuals may go to obstruct justice and protect themselves from the consequences of their actions.

Creating False Excuses

In addition to crafting a false narrative, the defendants also brainstormed false excuses to justify their use of force during the assault. By concocting these excuses, they sought to provide a seemingly legitimate reason for their excessive and unnecessary violence against the inmate. These false excuses demonstrate a calculated attempt to mislead and manipulate the investigation, further highlighting the defendants’ lack of remorse or acknowledgment of their misconduct.

Plea and Testimony of Jordan DeMattos

Fourth Officer’s Guilty Plea

A fourth officer involved in the assault, Jordan DeMattos, pleaded guilty for his role in the incident and subsequent cover-up. By accepting responsibility for his actions, DeMattos acknowledged his involvement in the assault and his complicity in the attempts to obstruct justice. His guilty plea serves as a critical admission of guilt and confirms the existence of a broader conspiracy among the defendants.

Testimony for the Prosecution

As part of his plea agreement, Jordan DeMattos testified for the prosecution during the trial. His testimony provided crucial insight into the events leading up to, during, and after the assault, shedding light on the defendants’ actions and motivations. The cooperation of DeMattos, through his testimony, played a pivotal role in establishing the culpability of the other defendants and strengthening the prosecution’s case against them.

Judge’s Order and Custody

Judge Leslie Kobayashi’s Order

After the jury’s verdict, Judge Leslie Kobayashi ordered the U.S. Marshals to take the defendants into custody pending their sentencing hearings. This order ensured that the defendants would not be able to evade justice and would remain detained until their respective sentencing hearings. By holding the defendants in custody, Judge Kobayashi affirmed the seriousness of the charges against them and the need for a fair and thorough sentencing process.

U.S. Marshals Taking Defendants into Custody

The role of the U.S. Marshals is to enforce court orders and provide security within the federal judicial system. In this case, the U.S. Marshals were responsible for taking the defendants into custody following their conviction. By executing this duty, the U.S. Marshals ensured that the defendants were held accountable for their actions and would be available for their upcoming sentencing hearings.

Significance of the Conviction

Abuse of Trust by Law Enforcement

The conviction of the three former correctional officers highlights a troubling abuse of trust by individuals in positions of authority. As law enforcement officers, the defendants were entrusted with ensuring the safety and welfare of inmates. However, they not only violated their duty to protect but actively engaged in physical violence against an inmate, betraying the very principles of their profession. This conviction serves as a reminder of the importance of robust oversight and accountability within law enforcement institutions.

Prosecution’s Commitment

The successful prosecution and conviction of the defendants demonstrate the unwavering commitment of the justice system to hold accountable those who abuse their power and violate the civil rights of others. Through a meticulous investigation and a comprehensive trial, the prosecution presented compelling evidence to secure the conviction of the former correctional officers. This commitment to justice ensures that no one is above the law and sends a powerful message that civil rights violations will not be tolerated.

Protection of Civil Rights

By prosecuting and convicting the former correctional officers, the justice system has reaffirmed its dedication to the protection of civil rights. This case, while troubling in its nature, demonstrates the commitment to upholding the rights of all individuals, even those in custody. It serves as a reminder that violations of civil rights will be met with decisive action and that everyone is entitled to equal protection under the law.

Statements from Department Officials

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division expressed concerns over the defendants’ abuse of trust as law enforcement officers. She emphasized the department’s commitment to prosecuting corrections officials who engage in violence against inmates and abuse their positions to cover up their crimes. Assistant Attorney General Clarke underscored the department’s reliance on civil rights laws to ensure the protection of individuals’ rights, including those in custody.

U.S. Attorney Clare E. Connors

U.S. Attorney Clare E. Connors for the District of Hawaii reaffirmed the office’s dedication to upholding civil rights under the law. She acknowledged the importance of prosecuting violations of civil rights and ensuring that every person’s rights are protected. U.S. Attorney Connors emphasized the office’s commitment to enforcing constitutional rights and other federal laws, reflecting the significance of this conviction in safeguarding civil rights within the jurisdiction.

Special Agent in Charge Steven Merrill

Special Agent in Charge Steven Merrill of the FBI Honolulu Field Office reiterated the FBI’s commitment to investigating violations of civil rights. He highlighted the obligation of correctional officers to uphold the standards of law enforcement officers within prisons and condemned the defendants’ failure to do so. Special Agent in Charge Merrill reassured the public that the FBI will diligently pursue justice for those whose civil rights have been violated, emphasizing the bureau’s dedication to upholding justice and protecting civil rights.

Investigation and Prosecution

FBI’s Role in the Investigation

The FBI played a crucial role in the investigation of the civil rights violations by the former correctional officers. Their expertise and resources enabled them to gather the necessary evidence and conduct a thorough investigation to establish the defendants’ culpability. The FBI’s involvement reflects the commitment of federal law enforcement agencies to address civil rights violations and hold accountable those responsible for such offenses.

Prosecution Team

The prosecution team, led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Nolan of the District of Hawaii, Special Litigation Counsel Christopher J. Perras, and Trial Attorney Thomas Johnson of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, diligently worked to build a strong case against the defendants. Their expertise in civil rights law and their dedication to justice were instrumental in securing the conviction of the former correctional officers. The teamwork and collaboration of the prosecution team underscore their commitment to upholding civil rights and pursuing justice on behalf of the victim and society as a whole.

Contact Information

Civil Rights Division (CRT)

For inquiries or assistance regarding civil rights matters, individuals can contact the Civil Rights Division at (202) 514-2007. The Civil Rights Division is dedicated to upholding and enforcing federal civil rights laws to ensure the protection of individuals’ rights across various settings, including correctional facilities.

District of Hawaii U.S. Attorney’s Office

For specific inquiries or information regarding the case or related civil rights matters within the District of Hawaii, individuals can contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office. They can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at (808) 541-2850. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is committed to upholding civil rights and ensuring justice within the district.