Three former Hilo correctional officers indicted for assaulting an inmate and attempting to cover it up
News Release from USDoJ Honolulu, June 30, 2020
HONOLULU, Hawaii – On June 10, 2020, a federal grand jury returned a six count indictment against three former correctional officers—Jason Tagaloa, 29, Craig Pinkney, 36, and Jonathan Taum, 48—for their roles in assaulting an inmate housed at the Hawaii Community Correctional Center and for attempting to cover up their misconduct.
The indictment was unsealed today announced U.S. Attorney Kenji M. Price for the District of Hawaii, Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, and FBI Honolulu Special Agent in Charge Eli S. Miranda.
The indictment alleges that, on June 15, 2015, Defendants Tagaloa, Pinkney, and Taum, along with a fourth correctional officer designated “Officer A,” physically assaulted an inmate in the jail’s recreation yard, that Tagaloa later assaulted the same inmate in a holding cell, and that both assaults resulted in bodily injury. The indictment further alleges that the defendants and Officer A conspired to cover up their misconduct by engaging in a variety of obstructive acts, including devising a false cover story to justify their use of force, documenting that false cover story in official reports, and repeating that false cover story when questioned during the ensuing investigation and disciplinary proceedings arising out of the assault.
“Those committed to the custody of our state and federal detention facilities do not jettison their constitutional rights when they pass through the doors to those facilities. They are entitled to humane treatment, which includes constitutional safeguards, such as the right to be free of ‘cruel and unusual’ punishment while in custody. Our communities entrust correctional officers to protect detention facilities and the inmates housed within them, and when such officers commit crimes within a detention facility, they will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” said U.S. Attorney Price.
“The FBI’s Civil Rights Program dedicates a significant amount of its efforts to investigating police misconduct and other crimes committed by individuals exploiting their government-granted powers. Fortunately, the vast majority of public servants understand that they must both uphold and obey the law. The few who illegally manipulate others using their official capacity will be caught and tried like any other criminal. The FBI is committed to restoring trust in law enforcement by holding those who abuse their privileges and abandon their responsibilities accountable,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Miranda.
The maximum penalties for the charged crimes are 10 years of imprisonment for each of the deprivation-of-rights offenses, 20 years of imprisonment for each of the false report offenses, and five years of imprisonment for the conspiracy offense.
An indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted the investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Craig Nolan of the District of Hawaii is prosecuting the case in partnership with Special Litigation Counsel Christopher J. Perras and Trial Attorney Thomas Johnson of the Civil Rights Division.
Hawaii LRB CASE NO.: 17-CE-10-900
HTH 2017: Attorney Steve Strauss filed a civil lawsuit Wednesday in Hilo Circuit Court on behalf of 33-year-old Chawn Kaili
HTH 2018: Another Inmate lawsuit alleges beating by same HCCC guards
HTH July 1, 2020: A lawsuit was filed in Hilo Circuit Court in 2017, with Tagaloa, Taum and Pinkney as defendants. The plaintiff is Chawn Kaili, then an inmate at Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Ariz., alleging essentially the same set of facts on the same date.
HTH: Former HCCC guards plead not guilty to jailhouse assault