Katherine Kealoha, a Honolulu city prosecutor who’s under federal criminal investigation for alleged corruption and abuse of power, has been on unpaid leave since late April.

Officials say she is expected to return to the office at the end of this week.

Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro’s spokesman, Chuck Parker, told Civil Beat that Kealoha’s leave was for personal reasons and not part of any disciplinary action.

Katherine Kealoha and her husband, former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha, have maintained their innocence throughout the federal investigation. Screen shot/KHON

Parker said Kealoha is still the “team captain” of the career criminal unit that targets repeat offenders and parolees who break the terms of their release.

Parker would not divulge any more details about the circumstances of Kealoha’s leave, and said that Kaneshiro would not be commenting on the matter.

Kealoha responded to a Civil Beat phone call seeking comment with a text message. She did not respond to follow-up questions.

“On April 24th, in the morning, I got hurt at the office,” Kealoha texted. “I went to (the) ER immediately. I am not on leave because of any other reason.”

Kealoha has been under federal criminal investigation since early 2015 when she and her husband — former Honolulu police chief Louis Kealoha — were accused of framing her uncle, Gerard Puana, for stealing their mailbox in 2013.

At the time of the alleged theft, Puana and his 95-year-old mother were suing Katherine Kealoha over hundreds of thousands of dollars they claimed she stole from them.

Puana’s criminal defense attorney, Alexander Silvert, said the Kealohas and several other officers in the Honolulu Police Department had conspired to frame his client for the mailbox theft and at least one other crime to undermine Puana’s credibility in that lawsuit.

Katherine Kealoha eventually won the civil case and was awarded over $650,000 in damages.

Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro. 3 jan 2017
Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro has testified before a federal grand jury that’s investigating public corruption allegations involving one of his star employees. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

In December, former HPD officer Niall Silva, who was involved in the mailbox case, pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy. Court records said there were at least five other co-conspirators involved in the case, four of them HPD officers.

“Co-conspirator No. 1” — as described in Silva’s plea deal and other court records — appears to be Katherine Kealoha.

Shortly after Silva’s guilty plea, then-HPD police chief Louis Kealoha was notified by the federal Department of Justice officials he was a target of the ongoing criminal investigation.

He initially went on leave and vigorously defended himself as innocent through his defense attorney. In January, the Honolulu Police Commission, with the help of city attorneys, cut a deal with Kealoha to leave the department.

He was allowed to retire in “good standing” and was given a $250,000 lump sum cash payment.

Kaneshiro himself has been questioned by U.S. Justice Department investigators, and the FBI executed a search warrant inside his office.

He’s also come under increasing scrutiny for statements he’s made in defense of Katherine Kealoha regarding her dismissal of a speeding ticket for an acquaintance.

Questions had been raised about whether Kealoha and Kaneshiro have been fully honest about the scenario both in talking with the press and courtroom officials.

Kaneshiro has remained one of Kealoha’s most ardent defenders. He announced during his inauguration ceremony in January that she would be taking on a new intelligence-based prosecution initiative to go after criminals who target tourists.

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