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Former Halawa guard draws 8-year term for taking bribes

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A former Halawa Correctional Facility guard is headed to federal prison for eight years for taking bribes from a gang to smuggle drugs and cigarettes to inmates.

In handing down the sentence against Feso Malufau on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi said the guard breached the public’s trust and betrayed his employer, the state Department of Public Safety.

A jury convicted Malufau last year of a conspiracy charge involving taking bribes from the "USO Family" prison gang after a trial that provided an inside look at the gang’s operations.

Malufau’s actions increased the dangers to his colleagues and the inmates, while adding to the "power and influence" of the gang, Kobayashi said, describing a prison atmosphere that’s a "powder keg of emotions, of various types of people."

He continued smuggling contraband into the facility for three years, even after a Department of Public Safety investigation in 2010, Koba­yashi said.

The judge noted that Malu­fau is educated, served in the Army, has support of family and church members, and is raising two minor children alone, while his wife is serving a one-year prison term for bankruptcy fraud.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Otake, in arguing that Malufau should receive an eight-year sentence, called him "corrupt to his core."

"He was a sergeant with decades of experience who knew the prison system, knew the impacts of what he was doing in the prison system," Otake said.

Malufau’s sentence will be closely watched — by the public and by current guards weighing the risks against the rewards for similar actions, she said.

Malufau’s defense attorney, Barry Edwards, said during the trial that the gang preyed on the then-guard’s financial troubles and framed him. At the sentencing, he argued that the evidence wasn’t much more than a "jailhouse story."

Malufau plans to appeal, Edwards said.

"He’s retired and he’s on a pension and he’s a child care giver," Edwards said. "I argue seriously that five years is more than enough time to both send a message and to punish."

Before Kobayashi announced the sentence, Malufau stood up and said he loves God and his family: "I’ve tried my best to be the best father and husband that I can be."

Edwards asked that Malufau be sent to a facility where he can be separated from any USO members.

Kobayashi is allowing Malufau to begin serving his sentence in May, two weeks after his wife is expected to return home.

Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, Associated Press

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