EXCLUSIVE: OCCC guards face criminal charges

OCCC guards accused of beating already subdued inmate
Published: Sep. 17, 2013 at 3:24 AM HST|Updated: Oct. 24, 2013 at 6:45 PM HST
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Ismael Castro & Kevin Ignacio
Ismael Castro & Kevin Ignacio
Circuit Judge Patrick Border
Circuit Judge Patrick Border

Two Oahu Community Correctional Center guards face a criminal trial next month over the beating of an inmate.

Adult Corrections Officer Kevin Ignacio is accused of repeated punching prisoner Jeffrey Diaz in the head and face while fellow prison guard Ismael Castro is accused of kicking Diaz.

"Both cases involve assaults on inmate Jeffrey Diaz that occur within minutes of each other," Deputy Attorney General Albert Cook wrote in a court filing earlier this month.

"In fact, ACO Castro assaults inmate Diaz while he is handcuffed and being escorted back to his cell ... immediately after Ignacio assaulted Diaz."

Both Castro and Ignacio have pleaded not guilty to the third degree assault charges, which are a misdemeanor.

"I think the evidence will basically exonerate Mr. Ignacio," his attorney Randall Hironaka said today.

"It's going to show a lot of things ... about the behavior of the complainant at this point."

The victim was in OCCC on an assault conviction. Hironaka says Diaz has a history of violence.

Diaz was beaten to a bloody mess on October 2012 after he refused to take a shower. According to filings by the Attorney General's office, Ignacio allegedly encouraged other inmates to harass and attack Diaz, then wound up punching Diaz after he was handcuffed.

The Attorney General's office cited a criminal investigation by the Department of Public Safety, which stated that several fellow ACOs testified that they saw Ignacio striking Diaz.

Castro's alleged kick was caught on video by prison cameras, the AG's office said.

Legal experts say that its unusual to find this kind of corroboration in a prison beating case.

"It's rare that you have a case where prison staff is alleged to have assaulted or have physically attacked somebody and apparently you have photographic corroboration," said attorney Eric Seitz.

"We've been advocating for years that there ought to be video cameras in prisons so that cases like this can be substantiated because in most cases you have the (word) of inmates that don't have a lot of credibility."

Attorneys for the AG's office and Ignacio appeared in court today on a motion to combined the two criminal cases. But neither of the prison guards showed up, which prompted a scolding from Circuit Judge Patrick Border.

"Let me give you a good rule of thumb: Never, never do that," Border said to Hironaka.

"In effect, you're not asking me to waive their presence. You waived their presence by having them not show up. So I can't do anything. My order would be for those people to appear immediately."

Both guards have been placed on leave pending the outcome of the criminal trial. If convicted they face up to a year in jail.

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