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Halawa guards are fired over inmate abuse

Surveillance video shows a struggle in which a man is kicked while on the ground

By Rob Shikina

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 12:21 p.m. HST, Dec 13, 2010



A Department of Public Safety official says three correctional officers have been fired for beating an inmate at Halawa Correctional Facility but declined to say whether other officers are under investigation for the same offense.

The attack, caught on surveillance video, shows a prolonged struggle during which a guard kicked the inmate in the head as he lay on the ground.

Michael Hoffman, Institutions Division administrator for the department, declined to release investigative reports into the actions of the three former correctional officers because, he said, the reports involve internal matters.

"If we have internal investigations being conducted at this time, I wouldn't disclose that," said Hoffman. "At this point in time, if there are investigations, I wouldn't comment on ongoing investigations."

Darren Kaneaiakala, Puifatu Fiso Jr. and Allen Tevaga were terminated after assaulting inmate Joseph Tui in a cell on June 16, 2009.

Hoffman said prison guards are continually trained to prevent violations of policy, and officials act quickly to address or correct any violations of policy.

"The department doesn't tolerate abuse of inmates," he said. "I believe it's a very unfortunate incident that's occurred."

The abuse took place when officers opened Tui's cell door to place a mattress inside, he said.

Tui swung at Kaneaiakala, which led to a fight, said Emmanuel Tipon, Tevaga's attorney.

He said 15 guards showed up at the cell, including a lieutenant and two sergeants, and the entire struggle lasted 25 to 30 minutes.

He said Tevaga's role in the assault was "very minor," and in the video he is seen kicking Tui once in the head while he was on the ground.

"I think that his emotions got the best of him in this situation," Tipon said. "Up until the point where he kicked Mr. Tui, he was simply responding to a backup call from these two guards."

Fiso pleaded no contest in August for third-degree assault. He received a deferred acceptance of his plea, meaning the charge will be expunged from his record if he stays out of trouble for a year.

His attorney, Michael Green, said Fiso had an exemplary career as a correctional officer before the incident and simply got caught up with the wrong people.

Darren Kaneaiakala pleaded no contest to third-degree assault last month.

Tevaga also pleaded no contest in November to third-degree assault. He is awaiting sentencing on Feb. 9 and will seek a deferred acceptance of his plea, said Tipon.

Tipon also described his client as a father and husband and 14-year employee with the department who never had problems before this incident.

He said the incident should not represent the actions of all adult correctional officers.

"We ask these ACOs to put themselves at risk on a daily basis," he said. "We ask them to do something that most people wouldn't want to do, and that is to work ... with violent criminals."

Tui was released from prison but brought back to Halawa this year on a parole violation.

There are about 900 prisoners and 350 correctional officers at Halawa, a staffing level that Hoffman described as adequate.






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