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Hawaii inmate sues after schizophrenic cellmate beats him up

  • STAR-ADVERTISER / MARCH 18, 2013

    This file photo shows Benjamin Bishop.

  • STAR-ADVERTISER / OCT. 14, 2014

    Michael Tanouye

A former U.S. Pacific Command defense contractor imprisoned for giving military secrets to his Chinese girlfriend has sued the federal government after a paranoid schizophrenic cellmate beat him up.

The lawsuit filed Thursday argues Honolulu Federal Detention Center officials should have known Benjamin Bishop’s cellmate was suicidal, had been on psychiatric medication and had just tried to rape a woman on an airplane.

It said Michael Tanouye shouldn’t have been put in a cell with anybody.

Bishop’s left eye was swollen shut after the beating. The 62-year-old suffered multiple bruises and cuts.

The lawsuit seeks damages for pain and injuries Bishop suffered and to cover past and future medical costs.

U.S. Attorney’s office spokesman Elliot Enoki said his office had not yet reviewed the complaint and had no comment. A detention center spokesman didn’t immediately respond to an email message seeking comment.

Bishop is serving a seven-year sentence after pleading guilty in 2014 to giving his graduate student girlfriend classified information and keeping classified documents at home.

He had worked in cyber defense at Pacific Command headquarters in Hawaii from May 2011 until his arrest in 2013. Before that, he helped develop Pacific Command strategy and policy. He retired from the U.S. Army Reserve as a lieutenant colonel in 2013.

Tanouye was put in Bishop’s cell in October 2014 after being accused of trying to rape a woman in an airplane bathroom during a flight to Japan. The captain of the plane decided to turn around after hearing it took three passengers to keep Tanouye calm.

The lawsuit alleges Tanouye threw Bishop to the ground and began to beat him viciously in the head the morning after he arrived. Bishop, who weighed much less than Tanouye, struggled to reach for the panic button. But Tanouye wouldn’t let him, saying he would stop beating Bishop if he stopped reaching for the alarm. Bishop complied.

Afterward, Bishop asked Tanouye why he beat him and Tanouye replied he thought Bishop was the devil. A prison psychiatrist later told Bishop that Tanouye was a paranoid schizophrenic.

A judge in February found Tanouye, now 31, not guilty by reason of insanity for both the airplane and prison assaults.

The lawsuit said it was clear that both Hawaii sheriff’s deputies who took Tanouye off the plane and the FBI were on notice that Tanouye “was seriously dangerous and deranged.”

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  • “Bishop is serving a seven-year sentence after pleading guilty in 2014 to giving his graduate student girlfriend classified information and keeping classified documents at home.”

    he believed the f.b.i. was conducting a “security inquiry” rather than a criminal investigation for mishandling classified documents and their information. sound familiar, hiliar?

  • Unbelievable.

    Again, our misguided police force making the wrong decisions when placing cell mates together.

    City will probably have to fork out the money again.

    • It was the Federal Detention Center. See first two paragraphs. Nothing to do with C&C nor HPD. The Federal Prosecutor probably will choose to settle this case though.

  • He better get used to it as its not uncommon for inmates to assault each other over the most insignificant reasons because its survival of strongest……

  • What is wrong with our government workers (in this case Federal)? It’s common sense to keep crazy violent people away from others. Whoever allowed them to be put in the same cell should be FIRED. I wish they could also make the responsible party PAY the million dollar plus judgment.

    • My guess is that Tanouye was made to share a cell with Bishop because of a lack of an open cell at the time. Some (though in retrospect, inadequate) consideration was given to Bishop’s safety in that Bishop hasn’t been reported to be in frail health and isn’t yet of advanced age. Bishop will (deservedly) win or be offered a cash settlement, but it’s unlikely to reach seven figures.

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