Inmate sues over alleged violation

LIHUE — A trial date is set for a Lihue man incarcerated at Halawa Correctional Facility who said two Kauai jail corrections officers violated his civil rights when they allegedly did not allow him to practice his religion.

Duane Dawson, a man charged with multiple felonies, said two Kauai Community Correctional Center corrections officers violated his civil rights last year when they denied him free exercise to religion by allegedly forcing Dawson to denounce his Native Hawaiian Religious Practice to participate in a Christian-based program, according to his civil rights complaint.

The civil trial is scheduled for July 5 before District Judge Leslie Kobayashi in the Hawaii United States Distinct Court. It will not be heard before a jury.

Dawson also alleges the jail segregated him from the rest of the inmates and denied him of equal treatment to regularly participate in jail activities, according to his civil rights complaint.

He is seeking punitive and compensatory damages.

Toni Schwartz, spokeswoman for the Hawaii Department of Public Safety, said the department would not comment on pending litigation.

In a recent hearing, Dawson, who is representing himself, lost a motion for appointment of counsel.

Dawson said he could not afford a lawyer and that his imprisonment would “greatly limit his ability to litigate this case.”

The U.S. Attorneys defending the corrections officer “deny that (their defendants) are engaged in any wrongful acts or omissions that they have caused plaintiff any injury whatsoever,” according to their answer to plaintiff’s complaint filed earlier this year.

Duane Dawson is currently housed at Halawa Correctional Facility.

In a letter to TGI, Dawson alleges he was moved from KCCC to HCF because he filed grievances against the jail and they “are retaliating against him.”

In his complaint, Dawson alleges the jail moved him due to the retaliation “based on the unfair treatment received in regards to the denied opportunity to participate in the module contract program.”

The U.S. Attorneys deny the allegations, records show.

KCCC houses detainees awaiting trial or anyone sentenced to less than one year.

Although Dawson has pending matters in court, he shows up as “closed status.”

“He has Closed Custody status based on his violent behavior toward other inmates and staff,” Schwartz said. “KCCC cannot accommodate that custody level.”

Dawson is charged with multiple felony charges including attempted murder in the first degree, three counts of attempted murder in the second degree and three counts of terroristic threatening in the first degree.

Other charges include criminal trespass in the second degree, four counts of reckless endangering in the second degree and terroristic threatening in the second degree.

Dawson is awaiting a mental health examination by a panel of three doctors, but the hearing and his court proceedings have been suspended since March awaiting the status of the reports. It is not clear when they will.

In the attempted murder case, Dawson is alleged to have shot arrows into a tent filled with four people in it at Anahola Beach Park, according to police reports.

Bail for Dawson was set at $250,000.

If convicted on attempted murder in the first degree, Dawson could face a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

His criminal defense attorney, Al Castillo Jr., who resides on Kauai, could not be reached for comment.

Dawson has maintained his innocence in court.

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