The question in ‘egregious’ inmate beating: Were guards properly trained?

Published: Dec. 12, 2019 at 9:58 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Video of a violent prison takedown on the Big Island four years ago that led to four Adult Corrections Officers being fired is now at the center of a wrongful termination case.

The 2015 beating began with a violent tackle of a Big Island inmate. Then, for the next three minutes, the Hawaii Community Correctional Center's security cameras recorded the ACOs hitting or kicking the inmate a total of 45 times.

Three ACOs and their supervisor, Jonathan Taum, were fired by the Department of Public Safety in 2016 — one year later — for using excessive force.

Taum is trying to get his job back, claiming he and the other guards were not properly trained.

Department of Public Safety Director Nolan Espinda took the witness stand Wednesday to answer questions from the state labor board. He testified that Taum’s termination was justified because he was the supervisor when officers used excessive force to subdue the inmate.

“It was an especially egregious act," Espinda told board members, "That is not what we train our people to do. It is not in the public interest.”

Espinda continued, “These strikes were applied to areas not consistent with official training head, neck and side of torso.”

But Taum’s attorney, Ted Hong, says the inmate was high on meth and spice, which made him violent.

Also called to testify, the department’s head of training, Marte Martinez, the woman who trained more than a thousand state law enforcement officers including Taum, all the other ACOs and all sheriff’s deputies.

Martinez’s credibility has been questioned since a Hawaii News Now report about her internal promotion applications. Records and sources said her education achievements were beefed up and couldn’t be verified.

In August 2015, Martinez applied for a promotion to become a firearms training specialist. Her internal application shows she had a BA, Bachelor of Arts, in criminology from Southern Oregon State College.

According to transcripts from another hearing earlier this year, Martinez repeated that claim under oath saying she graduated in 1992.

But now, Martinez is saying that degree wasfrom a different college, El Dorado College in California, which closed down in 1997, so there is no way to prove it, Martinez told the board.

Martinez also said Wednesday that she attended 15 different colleges, most, on or connected to military bases, including, Northern Virginia Community College, or NOVA.

“NOVA was a campus on a military base in Kuwait,” Martinez also cited a Charleston and St. Petersburg College saying they service the bases.

Our records show Martinez only had four months of active duty in the military.

She was listed as "Inactive Duty’ with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve from August 31, 1982 to May 2, 1983.

She was also listed as “Inactive Duty” with the U.S. Army Reserve from September 7, 1983 to December 27, 1983.

The only “Active Duty” service shows to be from December 28, 1983 to April 20, 1984.

She was a civilian, providing security on military bases between 2004 and 2014, when she arrived in Hawaii to work for the Department of Public Safety.

Martinez told the board that her files have been tampered with and some are missing and that she’s worked to replenish the missing transcripts and records. When the board asked for copies of those records she said she didn’t have any because she sent the sealed copies directly to Internal Affairs.

Hawaii News Now has also learned that Martinez is now the subject of a criminal investigation by the Attorney General’s Office. The apparent charges they are looking at include theft by deception and falsifying government records.

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