Charges dismissed in inmate's assault on guard
A state judge dismissed second-degree assault charges against a 22-year-old inmate accused of assaulting a prison guard.
Circuit Judge Virginia Crandall issued a written order Wednesday granting a defense motion to dismiss the case against Michael Thomas after viewing surveillance videos that recorded last November's incident.
Defense attorney Walter Rodby said the video showed Thomas was attacked by the guard, not the other way around.
"She found that had the grand jury had the opportunity to watch the video of what actually happened, they would not have indicted Thomas," Rodby said.
In their briefs, state attorneys had argued that the video was not "wholly inconsistent with the testimony of the guard" and was subject to interpretation by a viewer and further explanation by the guard.
They characterized the defense's interpretation of the video as "solely opinion" and based on a digital video with no audio, taken from a distance and from a rear angle where Thomas is partially blocked during the incident.
But what led up to the attack does not matter, said Rodby. "Just because you give a stink eye to the guard or say anything inappropriate doesn't give him free rein," he said.
Thomas was indicted in May, accused of attacking the prison guard at Oahu Community Correctional Center, where he was awaiting trial for domestic abuse. He was since transferred to Halawa, where he is currently serving a sentence for first- degree terroristic threatening and third-degree assault.
Thomas was relieved when at least one TV station aired the video, because until recently guards were treating him like an inmate who was prone to attacking them, and "coming down hard on him," Rodby said.
Once other prison guards saw the video, some apologized to Thomas and to his attorney, noting that not all corrections officers treat inmates that way.
"They made clear they're not like that and that they're not proud of what happened that day," Rodby said.
According to Rodby, the video shows the guard attacking Thomas and choking him. The same guard is seen grabbing Thomas by the head and holding him down on top of his right knee as Thomas collapses to the ground. The guard is also seen striking Thomas in the head with his fist as other guards hold him down.
Thomas suffered a cut lip, bloody nose, lumps to his head and scratches.
State attorneys and public safety officials could not be reached for comment on the decision.