Hilo, Hawaii - A former correctional officer at the Hawaii Community Correctional Center pleaded guilty to three felony offenses Wednesday for assaulting an inmate; for failing to protect the inmate from being assaulted by three other correctional officers; and for conspiring with those officers to cover it up.
Jordan DeMattos, 29, admitted during his plea hearing that he and fellow correctional officers pinned an inmate face-down on the ground, and then punched, kneed, and kicked the inmate in the face, head, and body dozens of times. DeMattos acknowledged that during much of the assault, the inmate was not resisting and the officers had no legitimate reason to use force against him. As a direct result of the assault, the inmate suffered a broken jaw, nose, and eye socket. DeMattos explained that he and the other officers conspired afterward to cover up the assault by engaging in a variety of obstructive acts, including devising a false cover story to explain and justify their use of excessive force, documenting that false cover story in official reports, and repeating that false cover story during the ensuing investigation and disciplinary proceedings arising out of the incident.
“This correctional officer’s actions go against every duty he swore to carry out when he took his badge,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division. “Civil rights violations are particularly egregious when they are carried out by someone whose duty is to protect. The Justice Department works hard to ensure that these perpetrators see justice for their crimes.”
“Together, a uniform, title, and authority to secure a state facility are not a license to victimize,” said U.S. Attorney Kenji Price for the District of Hawaii. “My office is committed to vindicating the rights of all citizens by enforcing the law — which includes holding those charged with safeguarding correctional facilities accountable for assaulting the inmates housed within them.”
“Correctional officers are given great power to enforce rules, keep order, and protect the inmates within their facilities. When Jordan DeMattos exploited these powers and violated the civil rights of an inmate he was charged to protect, he undermined the respect and reputation of all the officers who perform their duties lawfully and with dignity,” said Special Agent in Charge Eli S. Miranda. “The FBI takes allegation of civil rights violations seriously and will always bring to justice those who abuse their power and violate the constitution.”
DeMattos faces a maximum statutory penalty of up to 10 years of imprisonment for the assault offense, 20 years of imprisonment for the false report offense, and five years of imprisonment for the conspiracy offense.
The other three officers allegedly involved — Jason Tagaloa, Jonathan Taum, and Craig Pinkney — have pleaded not guilty and are scheduled to begin trial on March 15, 2021.
The FBI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Nolan of the District of Hawaii is prosecuting the case in partnership with Special Litigation Counsel Christopher J. Perras and Trial Attorney Thomas Johnson of the Civil Rights Division.