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3 ex-prison guards found guilty in 2015 Hawaii island inmate beating

                                Holding cells at Hawaii Community Correctional Center in Hilo.
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Holding cells at Hawaii Community Correctional Center in Hilo.

A federal jury has found three ex-prison guards guilty in the brutal beating and kicking of an inmate at the Hawaii Community Correctional Center in 2015.

The 12 jurors deliberated for 2 hours and 40 minutes before reaching their verdict at 4:20 p.m. Friday following a three-week trial.

Jason Tagaloa, 31, Craig Pinkney, 38, and Jonathan Taum, 50, were found guilty of violating the civil rights of Chawn Kaili, and for obstructing justice in the cover-up of the assault.

Tagaloa was found not guilty of a second charge of violating Kaili’s constitutional rights for allegedly beating him in his cell.

Kaili was held down on the asphalt at HCCC by four guards who punched and kicked Kaili, breaking his nose, jaw and eye socket on June 15, 2015, prosecutors said. They also kicked his head repeatedly.

The defense argued that they were trying to get Kaili handcuffed but he refused to give up his hands, which he had under his body.

“These defendants abused the trust given to them as law enforcement officers when they violently assaulted an inmate and lied to cover it up,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, in a written statement issued today from Washington, D.C.

After Friday’s verdict was read, Judge Leslie Kobayashi ordered they be remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service. The three will be held in custody until they are sentenced.

They face a maximum of 10 years imprisonment for the deprivation-of-rights offense, 20 years for the false report offenses, and five years for conspiracy.

The evidence in the case included two videotapes. One of the surveillance tapes from the prison showed the actual beatings in the recreation yard at HCCC on June 15, 2015. A second video ,taken with a cellphone by Pinkney, was a snippet of a meeting held at Taum’s house in which he coached the three other guards on what to say in their reports when questioned about the beatings.

After the beatings, the three falsified reports on the incident on why they used force, prosecutors said.

The government also had the fourth defendant, Jordan DeMattos, testify against the three others. He entered into a plea agreement with the government and pleaded guilty earlier to the same charges.

Correction: Tagaloa was found not guilty of a second charge of violating the inmate’s constitutional rights. An earlier version of this story said he was also found guilty on that charge.
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