Inmate Faults Feds for Jailhouse Assault

     HONOLULU (CN) — A recent suit filed in Hawaii Federal Court offers a glimpse into the strange world of incarceration, and an even stranger intersection of lives — a proverbial case of strange bedfellows or, in this case, cellmates.
     In his suit against the United States of America, plaintiff Benjamin Bishop says his jailers should have known better than send a mentally ill man into his cell.
     The story began in October 2014, when an airline passenger in the grip of a psychotic episode attempted to sexually assault a woman in the bathroom of a Japan Airlines flight from Hawaii.
     Witnesses said that 90 minutes into the flight, Michael Tanouye, of Hilo, began walking around the plane and making strange noises. After briefly complying with flight attendant orders to “sit down,” Tanouye got back up and forced his way into a lavatory occupied by a female passenger.
     Tanouye then pulled down the woman’s pants and exposed himself. In the struggle, the woman managed to push the bathroom’s emergency button.
     The woman’s mother, flight attendants and passengers tried to open the bathroom door, which was blocked by Tanouye. After unscrewing the door’s hinges, the crew struggled with Tanouye before finally subduing him. Tanouye’s mother, with whom he was traveling to Japan to visit family, then gave him his medication.
     According to Tanouye’s attorney Richard Sing, Tanouye, 29, had been going through a severe onset of schizophrenia. A judo enthusiast from a solid upper-middle class family, none of the usual predictors like rampant drug abuse were present.
     The incident involving the female passenger was part of a larger pattern of disoriented thinking rather than a sexual assault, the court later found.
     With Tanouye settled into a medicated sleep, the captain turned the plane around and delivered Tanouye to federal marshals. After a scuffle on the tarmac, marshals brought Tanouye to Queens Hospital where yet another brief incident took place.
     But instead of placing Tanouye in administrative segregation upon arrival at the Honolulu Federal Detention Center, unidentified Bureau of Prisons personnel put Tanouye into a cell with Bishop.
     Bishop had been incarcerated at Honolulu FDC since March 2013, on charges of passing defense secrets to his Chinese girlfriend.
     According to Bishop’s negligence complaint, he was told to keep an eye on Tanouye because Tanouye was on suicide watch. Neither Bishop nor his lawyer Joseph Rosenbaum is able to say precisely who gave the order. A lawyer for the Bureau of Prisons did not return phone calls requesting comment.
     Bishop, an Army Reserve lieutenant colonel and government contractor at Pacific Command, became involved with a 27-year-old graduate student from China after meeting her at an international defense conference in 2011. The affair began while Bishop was still married.
     Their “pillow talk” consisted of nuclear capabilities, a proposed radar system on the Pacific Rim and other equally racy topics.
     A search of Bishop’s Kapolei home by FBI agents ultimately turned up a document titled “Defense Planning Guidance 2014-2018.” It is, according to the criminal complaint against Bishop, “the definitive planning document for force development, articulating the mission requirements for the Department of Defense at the strategic level” and — despite his top-secret security clearance — Bishop was not authorized to have it.
     In the end, the government found no evidence of secrets being passed to a foreign government or that Bishop intended to commit treason. He was convicted on one count of communicating classified national defense information to an unauthorized person.
     Bishop had been paroled, but violated the terms of his release when he contacted the former girlfriend. Authorities sent him back to Honolulu FDC, where the incident with Mr. Tanouye occurred.
     Back in the cell, Bishop awoke to take note of Tanouye asleep in a bunk. Thinking nothing amiss, Bishop resumed his customary vigil, gazing absently out the narrow cell window.
     Without warning, the much larger Tanouye suddenly threw Bishop to the ground and began to pummel Bishop’s head and face. Bishop tried but could not reach the emergency button.
     When Tanouye relented, Bishop asked him why he attacked him. Tanouye said he thought Bishop was the devil, but agreed to leave him be if he would not push the emergency button.
     Later that morning, after the correctional officer unlocked the cell door, Bishop was taken to the hole, cleaned up a bit and brought to the hospital.
     Tanouye was sent to the Segregated Housing Unit. According to his lawyer, they had Tanouye strapped to a gurney when he came to interview him.
     Bishop was eventually sent to FCI Allenwood, a low-security facility in Pennsylvania from which he is scheduled to be released in 2020. According to his lawyer, Bishop is safe and doing well.
     Tanouye was found not guilty by reason of insanity and sent to Butner Federal Medical Center.
     At a status hearing conducted by teleconference in Federal Court on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson, attorney Sing and Assistant United States Attorney Larry Buttrick concurred with a forensic evaluation that found Mr. Tanouye should remain committed for the purposes of further evaluation and treatment.
     According to federal rules, the burden of proof falls on the defense to prove that Tanouye no longer proves a threat to persons or property.
     Sing is grateful for the help Tanouye is receiving at Butner and for his treatment by the government in general. He expedited the conference Wednesday in order to waive Tanouye’s presence so that he might be spared the month-long “Con Air” ordeal in which inmates are shackled and flown on a marshal’s flight through the Federal Transfer Center at Oklahoma City and other stops along the way.
     According to Sing, Tanouye has made tremendous strides and should be able to return home and resume his life in a matter of time.
     Bishop sued the United States for negligence, and seeks general, compensatory and consequential damages.

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