Before a federal judge appoints new defense attorneys for former Honolulu police chief Louis Kealoha and his prosecutor wife, Katherine, the couple needs to prove they don’t have the financial means to pay for their own legal defense.

The Kealohas appeared in U.S. District Court on Wednesday for a hearing in which their team of attorneys — Myles Breiner, Kevin Sumida and Gary Modafferi — had asked to be taken off the case and replaced by publicly funded lawyers from a federally approved panel.

The defense attorneys said in a motion filed late Tuesday that the Kealohas have no money to pay for what promises to be a complicated defense and a lengthy legal process.

Retired HPD Chief Louis Kealoha and Katherine Kealoha at District Court.
Retired HPD Chief Louis Kealoha, left, and Katherine Kealoha may be losing their defense attorneys, including Kevin Sumida, right. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Chief Judge J. Michael Seabright didn’t make a decision on the motion, however, because he wants to ensure the Kealohas are in fact financially eligible to be represented by court-appointed attorneys under the U.S. Criminal Justice Act.

He gave the Kealohas until Thursday to submit a financial disclosure form to the court, at which point he is expected to make a decision. That disclosure will be filed under seal.

But Seabright also made clear he wasn’t happy about inaccurate assertions Breiner, Sumida and Modafferi made that the U.S. government had frozen the Kealohas’ assets and prevented them from getting loans to pay for their own legal defense.

He said the bond agreements don’t prevent the Kealohas for applying for loans so long as there’s approval from the court.

He also questioned Sumida about a $700,000 lien his law firm has on a home the Kealohas own in Hawaii Kai that has an assessed value of about $1.24 million. The government has identified that same property for asset forfeiture.

“We need to be honest and have some integrity here,” Seabright said.

The judge additionally noted that Louis Kealoha, who retired from the Honolulu Police Department in February with a $250,000 cash payout, has a pension, which is estimated to give him up to $150,000 a year plus benefits.

Katherine Kealoha, on the other hand, is on unpaid leave from the Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Seabright made it clear that he intends to keep a tight rein on the case as it moves forward, which includes doing what he can to limit delays.

There are a total of six co-defendants in the case, including the Kealohas, who face a variety of charges related to conspiracy, obstruction of justice and bank fraud.

The others are Derek Hahn, Minh-Hung “Bobby” Nguyen, Gordon Shiraishi and Daniel Sellers, all of whom are current or former police officers.

Hahn, Nguyen, Shiraishi and Sellers are accused of working with the Kealohas to frame Katherine Kealoha’s uncle, Gerard Puana, for the theft of their mailbox and then trying to cover up the conspiracy once the FBI and others began investigating.

The Kealohas are also charged with bank fraud and other financial crimes, including identity theft, that targeted Puana and his elderly mother as well as two children who Katherine Kealoha represented in a guardianship matter after their father died.

All six defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

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