2 of 3 inmates guilty for damage at prison
A federal jury has found two inmates guilty and acquitted a third of damaging government property at the federal detention center last year.
Robert Kupahu, 32, Bryson Jose, 29, each face a year in federal prison for kicking in and breaking steel grilles that separate recreation cages. Both will be sentenced Jan 14.
Co-defendant Sean Matsunaga, who sparked the March 17, 2006, incident is expected to be returned to a mainland prison after being acquitted in the case last week.
All three defendants gained notoriety and prison time for three separate high profile crimes in Hawaii over the last decade.
» Matsunaga is serving the remaining time from a 22-year, seven-month term for a 1999 takeover bank robbery and shootout with police at the Kahala American Savings Bank.
» Kupahu was convicted in state court of the March 2003 assault of a man who intervened after watching Kupahu's father beat and try to drown the father's dog at Waimanalo Beach.
» Jose was convicted of federal charges for his role in the shooting death of vacationing Army pilot John Latchum Jr., 33, at the Waianae Rest Camp in June 1998.
The latest incident began, government prosecutors said, when Matsunaga refused to put his handcuffs back on. Their one hour of recreation time had expired and guards were preparing to transfer the trio back to their individual cells in the Special Holding Unit.
Jose apparently began kicking the grille panel that separated his and Matsunaga's rooms because he felt a lieutenant had "disrespected" his buddies. The defense alleged that the lieutenant had taunted the men with body language and verbal comments about being forcibly removed from the cells. The defendants argued at trial that they were justified in causing the damage because they believed they had no choice after being threatened.
When the grill broke loose, Jose climbed through the hole and joined Matsunaga in the adjacent cage. Kupahu allegedly tried kicking the grille on his side but was unsuccessful, prosecutors said. With Jose's help, they broke through the grille, enabling Kupahu to clamber through and join them in the middle cage.
The staff attempted to reason with the inmates who gave themselves up without incident a couple hours later.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Clare Connors said the jury clearly considered the evidence before it and were consistent in their findings as to Jose.
Defense attorney Louis Ching said Matsunaga was fortunate not to have been convicted because he initiated the incident.
However, there was no evidence by the government that he took part in damaging the cages as the other two did, he said.