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Four Hawaii Prison Guards Sentenced for Beating Prisoner – But One Wins Back-Pay

by David M. Reutter

On January 17, 2023, the last of four former Hawaii prison guards convicted of beating a state prisoner was sentenced to federal prison. The sentences ranged from one to 12 years. Three of the guards – Jason Tagaloa, 31, Craig Pinkney, 38, and Jonathan Taum, 50 – were convicted by a federal jury in July 2022 of assaulting the prisoner in June 2015 at the Hawaii Community Correctional Center; they also were convicted of trying to cover up the crime by submitting false reports between June 2015 and December 2016.

The prisoner, Chawn Kaili, suffered a broken jaw, nose, and eye socket from the two-minute beating in a prison recreation yard. Surveillance video captured Kaili being escorted across the recreation yard by one guard, who was then joined by the other three. Though the prisoner was nonviolent, they took him to the ground and beat him.

Tagaloa “delivered the most vicious punches and kicks to the victim’s head,” prosecutors said. Pinkney held the prisoner down as Tagola delivered the beating. Prosecutors said Taum supervised the beating and orchestrated the conspiracy to cover it up.

The fourth guard, Jordan DeMattos, 31, pleaded guilty in December 2020 and testified against the others during their three-week trial. All four guards were terminated by the state Department of Corrections (DOC) in 2016. They were then indicted in June 2020 in federal court for the District of Hawaii.

Taum was sentenced to 12 years in prison on November 15, 2022. Tagola was sentenced to eight years on December 5, 2022. Pinkney was sentenced to five years on January 5, 2023. In addition to their prison terms, all three former guards were ordered to serve three years of supervised release and pay a $300 special assessment. See: United States v. Tagaloa, USDC (D.Haw.), Case No. 1:20-cr-00044.

DeMattos was sentenced to one year in prison on January 17, 2023, followed by two years of supervised release; he, too, was ordered to pay a special assessment of $300. See: United States v. Demattos, USDC (D.Haw.), Case No. 1:20-cr-00121.

Incredibly, after Taum was sentenced, the state Labor Relations Board on February 21, 2023, ordered DOC to reinstate him with six years of back pay, plus a $10,000 penalty, after finding the training officer who prepared a use-of-force report for his dismissal lied about her credentials in a bid for promotion. J. Marte Martinez is on leave, charged with perjury, tampering with a government record and unsworn falsification to authorities. Her trial has been pushed back from June 2023 to January 2024. Meanwhile, state Attorney General Anne E. Lopez has promised to appeal the Labor Board ruling.

Additional sources: Honolulu Civil Beat, KHNL, New York Times