A former supervisory correctional officer at the Hawaii Community Correctional Center was sentenced to 144 months in federal prison for his role in the assault of an inmate and his leadership of a multi-year conspiracy to cover up the abuse.
“The defendant had a non-violent inmate in his custody and care, and he abused both the inmate and the Constitution by permitting lower-ranking officers to commit an unjustified assault,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “His subsequent decision to orchestrate a multi-year cover-up is an affront to the principles of honesty and integrity that our society expects from law enforcement. His sentence makes clear that no one is above the law, and that when officers violate the civil rights of people under their supervision – through violence or obstruction – they will be held accountable.”
According to court documents and evidence introduced at trial, on June 15, 2015, Jonathan Taum, 50, supervised his two co-defendants and a third correctional officer while they transported an inmate across the facility. The inmate became frightened in the course of the transfer, and Taum’s fellow officers took the non-violent inmate to the ground and repeatedly punched and kicked him in the face, head, and body. As the other officers beat the inmate, Taum verbally encouraged them to continue. The inmate’s jaw, orbital socket and nose were broken in the course of the assault. In the months and years that followed, Taum led the officers in a cover-up conspiracy that included writing false reports, submitting false statements to internal affairs and providing false testimony to disciplinary board members.
“Protecting the civil rights of everyone in the community, including inmates, is at the heart of our system of justice,” said U.S. Attorney Clare E. Connors for the District of Hawaii. “Supervisors in our correctional facilities are held to a higher standard of responsibility and as this case demonstrates, we will prosecute those who criminally violate the civil rights of those in their custody.”
“This case highlights how the FBI will vigorously investigate and hold accountable any individual who violates the civil rights of an inmate,” said Special Agent in Charge Steven Merrill of the FBI Honolulu Field Office. “We are committed in ensuring that every citizen—whether free or incarcerated—can exercise their protected liberties without fear of violence. This case should deter others in a position of power from such behavior in the future.”
Assistant Attorney General Clarke, U.S. Attorney Connors and Special Agent in Charge Merrill made the announcement.
The FBI Honolulu Field Office investigated the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Nolan for the District of Hawaii, Special Litigation Counsel Chris Perras and Trial Attorney Thomas Johnson of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section prosecuted the case.