Former HCCC guards plead not guilty to jailhouse assault

Three former Hawaii Community Correctional Center guards pleaded not guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Honolulu to charges they assaulted an inmate in 2015 and deprived the man of his constitutional rights.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenneth J. Mansfield ordered 29-year-old Jason Tagaloa, 36-year-old Craig Pinkney and 48-year-old Jonathan Taum to appear at 9 a.m. Aug. 31 for a jury trial before U.S. District Judge Leslie E. Kobayashi.

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The hearing was conducted by phone because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The three and another guard unnamed in the indictment are accused of beating and kicking Chawn Kaili in a recreation yard at the Hilo jail on June 15, 2015, with Tagaloa then allegedly beating Kaili again in a holding cell at the Punahele Street facility.

They are also accused of lying to cover up the use of excessive force on Kaili.

At least a portion of the alleged rec yard assault was caught on surveillance video.

A civil suit filed by Kaili in state court in 2017 alleges he was left with a broken jaw and other significant injuries from the attack and that he was denied immediate medical treatment for his injuries.

Kaili’s lawsuit, which also names former guard Joshua Demattos, then-adult corrections officer Lt. Jon Waikiki and former HCCC warden Peter MacDonald, stated Kaili was so bloodied by the beating that HCCC personnel disposed of jail-issued clothing.

Kaili also alleges Taum, Pinkney, Tagaloa and Demattos “comprised in part or whole a group of individuals who collectively referred to themselves as the ‘Alpha Dawgs’” and “that a purpose, if not the sole purpose, of the ‘Alpha Dawgs’ was the intentional violation of civil rights of incarcerated persons … often in connection with illegal interrogations” conducted by Pinkney, Tagaloa, Demattos and/or Taum. The suit claims Pinkney, Tagaloa and Demattos “each weighed in excess of 250 pounds” and that the Alpha Dawgs “used their positions of authority to intimidate and attempt to intimidate inmates.”

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Bond for Tagaloa, Pinkney and Taum was set at $25,000 for each individual, with conditions including none of them own or possess firearms or enter HCCC.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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