Jury finds state not liable for alleged inmate sex assaults by guards at women’s prison

Attorneys for the women said the ruling sends a bad message and that they plan to appeal.
Published: Nov. 16, 2022 at 11:18 AM HST|Updated: Nov. 16, 2022 at 12:51 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A jury on Wednesday found that the state was not liable for the repeated sex assaults against five former inmates at the Women’s Community Correctional Center in Kailua.

The ruling from the panel of five women and four men rejected the women’s claims seeking more than $7.5 million in damages from the state ― even though the state acknowledged that the sex assaults happened.

Attorneys for the women said the ruling sends a bad message and that they plan to appeal.

Prison rape victims seek $7.5M in damages, but state argues it’s not liable

“This is going to encourage guards. You have a green light, nothing’s going to happen to you,” said attorney Richard Wilson. “The warden doesn’t care. The state doesn’t care. And that’s a shame.”

Deputy Attorney General Skyler Cruz thanked the jury, saying he appreciated that they “considered all of the evidence.”

The suit alleged that four adult correctional officers -- Chavon Freitas, Taofi Magalei Jr., Brent Baumann and Gauta Vaa -- sexually assaulted the women at least 53 times between 2013 and 2016. The guards were accused of forcing the inmates to have sex with them, oftentimes giving them contraband such as snacks, access to cell phones and even drugs as rewards.

All four were fired by the department and least two of the former officers -- Baumann and Vaa -- have been convicted on sex assault charges. One of the victims killed herself four years ago.

The state argued that it was not liable for the actions of rogue corrections officers and that it investigated the assaults and provided treatment for the victims.

But attorney Terry Revere, who also represents the women, argued that the state didn’t do enough to prevent the rapes because it failed to place surveillance cameras in areas where the crimes occurred and resisted calls to do so.

He said the state still isn’t doing enough to prevent prison rapes.

“Forty percent of the dilapidated cameras are still not working in this place,” said Revere.

“This fight is only half over because we’re also going to seek an order from the court ― after 10 years of rapes where the state of Hawaii has done nothing at the WCCC rape factory ― to make this place safer for these inmates.”