United States District Court, D. Hawaii
THAD J. THOMPSON, Plaintiff,
J. AFAMASAGA, STATE OF HAWAII, Defendants.
FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW
MICHAEL SEABRIGHT CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
court conducted a non-jury trial in this case on May 29-30,
2018. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a), the
following constitute the court's Findings of Fact
(“Findings”) and Conclusions of Law
(“Conclusions”). To the extent any Findings as
stated may also be deemed to be Conclusions, they shall also
be considered Conclusions. Similarly, to the extent any
Conclusions as stated may be deemed to be Findings, they
shall also be considered Findings. See In re Bubble Up
Del., Inc., 684 F.2d 1259, 1262 (9th Cir. 1982).
a prisoner civil rights action in which Plaintiff Thad J.
Thompson (“Plaintiff”), who was a pretrial inmate
at Oahu Community Correctional Center (“OCCC”),
alleges that Defendant Adult Correction Officer
(“ACO”) J. Afamasaga (“Defendant” or
“Afamasaga”) used excessive force against Plaintiff
in violation of the United States Constitution. During a
strip-search, Defendant discovered an item concealed between
Plaintiff's buttocks. A physical altercation followed,
during which Plaintiff was injured. On May 29, a two-day
bench trial commenced on Plaintiff's claim against
Afamasaga. On June 6, 2018, Defendant filed a post-trial
brief. ECF No. 137.
evidence presented at trial included live testimony from four
witnesses and seventeen exhibits submitted jointly
by the parties, ECF No. 137, and admitted without objection.
The court has heard and weighed all the evidence and
testimony presented at trial, observed the demeanor of
witnesses and evaluated their credibility and candor, and
heard and considered Plaintiff's and Defendant's
arguments. For the reasons set forth below, the court finds
that Plaintiff failed to show by a preponderance of the
credible evidence that the force Defendant purposely or
knowingly used against Plaintiff was objectively
unreasonable. That is, the court finds that Plaintiff failed
to prove that Defendant used constitutionally excessive force
FINDINGS OF FACT
September 2, 2014, Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee. That
morning, he was reassigned within OCCC from Annex 2 to the
Special Holding Unit (“SHU”).
Defendant and Patelesio were working at the SHU when
Plaintiff arrived. An important part of an ACO's job is
to maintain security in the facility. Defendant testified
that part of his training as an ACO included identification
of security hazards, techniques to deal with altercations
such as the “takedown” of an inmate, and the use
of minimal force to maintain control and obtain compliance
from inmates who are aggressive and/or refuse to follow
time an inmate enters the SHU, he is strip-searched to ensure
that no weapons, drugs, or other contraband are brought into
the SHU. During trial, the parties stipulated that it was
appropriate for Plaintiff to be strip-searched upon his
arrival at the SHU.
Plaintiff arrived at the SHU, Patelesio was working in the
sergeant's office, which is adjacent to the SHU entry
area. Defendant met Plaintiff in the SHU entry area and
proceeded to conduct the strip-search.
Defendant warned Plaintiff that any sudden movement may be
viewed as an act of aggression that will result in a forced
“takedown.” 6. When Plaintiff arrived at the SHU,
he had a rolled-up plastic bag containing a tea bag and
packet of sugar partially concealed between his buttocks.
credible evidence shows that Plaintiff did not fully comply
with Defendant's orders during the strip search. For
example, rather than hand his clothes to Defendant as
directed, Plaintiff tossed or kicked them aside. Plaintiff
did not spread his cheeks as ordered, and instead of fully
squatting and coughing, Plaintiff performed a half
“squat and cough.” After Defendant glimpsed
something in Plaintiff's buttocks, he ordered him to
squat and cough again. Plaintiff responded by asking
Defendant what he was talking about and why he had to squat
again before then doing another half squat. Defendant saw the
plastic bag between Plaintiff's buttocks, but did not
know what the plastic bag contained.
8. In a
loud, excited voice, Defendant asked Plaintiff what he had
and ordered Plaintiff to hand over the plastic bag.
Plaintiff failed to hand over the item. Instead, Plaintiff
pushed Defendant against the wall and grabbed the item with
his other hand.
Defendant testified that from his training and observations
working at OCCC, he knew that inmates often make weapons from
ordinary items such as toothbrushes, razors, and rocks from
the recreational area. Defendant further testified that
because Plaintiff was hiding the item and refused to hand it
over, he thought it might be a weapon. Defendant testified
that he acted in accordance with his training and attempted a