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Three Former Hawaii Jail Guards Convicted in Assault on Prisoner and Cover-Up

By Jo Ellen Nott

On July 8, 2022, a federal jury convicted three former guards from the Hawaii Community Correctional Center for a vicious assault on a prisoner in June 2015. The three, Jason Tagaloa, 31, Craig Pinkey, 38, and Jonathan Taum, 50, were also convicted of submitting a false report which did not mention their use of force on the prisoner, Chawn Kaili, in an attempt to cover up their crime. 

A fourth guard, Jordan DeMattos, also participated in the assault and cover-up, but he pleaded guilty and testified for the feds during the three-week trial. Surveillance video captured the beat-down, which began when one guard took the prisoner to the recreation yard and was joined by the other three. The four guards then punched and kicked the prisoner 45 times over the next two minutes, during which one guard put a knee on Kaili’s neck to hold him down more securely as the other three continued to beat him.

The violent attack left the prisoner with a broken nose, jaw, and eye socket. Carrie Ann Shirota, policy director for the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, stated that the assault shows the need for more oversight in the Hawaiian prison system. Shirota also declared that badges and authority cannot be used as a weapon against those who are entrusted to the state Department of Public Safety. Shirota also sees the need for more conversation about bail reform and how society incarcerates offenders. 

The Chief federal law enforcement official in the state, Clare E. Connors, applauded the prosecution and verdict, saying that her office was committed to ensuring every person’s civil rights are protected under the law. She promised her U.S. Attorney’s office “will continue to enforce those rights the Constitution and other federal laws provide.”

A sentencing date has not yet been set for the three guards, who face maximum penalties of 10 years for deprivation of rights, 20 years for filing a false report and five years for conspiracy.

Sources:  Big Island Now, Hawaii News Now, KHON

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