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American Samoan Prison Warden Pleads Guilty

WASHINGTON — Mika Kelemete, the former warden at the Tafuna Correctional Facility in Pago Pago, American Samoa, pleaded guilty today in federal court in Honolulu to conspiring to violate the civil rights of an inmate.

During his guilty plea, Kelemete admitted that he ordered two corrections officers to remove an inmate from his cell and bring the inmate to the center of the facility where he was handcuffed to a pole. At that point, Kelemete picked up a board and struck the inmate about his head and back until the board broke.

Kelemete faces a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000.

“The overwhelming majority of prison wardens and correctional officers dispatch their difficult duties with honor and professionalism. The Justice Department will aggressively prosecute those who cross the line to engage in acts of criminal misconduct,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.

The Civil Rights Division is committed to the vigorous enforcement of every federal criminal civil rights statute, such as laws that prohibit the willful use of excessive force or other acts of misconduct by law enforcement officials. In fiscal year 2006, nearly 50 percent of the cases brought by the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division involved such prosecutions. Since fiscal year 2001, the Division has filed 25 percent more official misconduct cases and convicted 50 percent more of these defendants than in the preceding six years.

Today’s guilty plea resulted from the investigative work of the Honolulu Division and American Samoan Resident Agency of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. Civil Rights Division attorneys Susan French and Jared Fishman handled the case for the Justice Department.