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.”