Katherine Kealoha’s new criminal defense attorney, Cynthia Kagiwada, said Monday that her client’s prosecutors are from the mainland and “not necessarily familiar with everything in Hawaii.”

Kagiwada addressed the media after appearing in U.S. District Court, where Chief Judge J. Michael Seabright postponed the trial until June to give defense attorneys a chance to review and respond to nearly 230,000 pages of discovery documents the government has collected in its investigation.

Outside the courtroom after the hearing, Kagiwada took a swipe at the team of federal prosecutors from San Diego who are handling the case due to potential conflicts of interest with the local U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Cynthia Kagiwada, right, was recently appointed to represent Katherine Kealoha in one of the largest public corruption cases in Hawaii history. Nick Grube/Civil Beat

She described them as “mainland prosecutors,” a tactic that could also be used at trial to garner sympathy with a local jury.

“I’m just pointing that out because this is somebody other than our local attorneys (who) are prosecuting this case,” Kagiwada said.

She kept her comments brief and did not divulge many details about her working relationship with Kealoha, a deputy prosecuting attorney for the city of Honolulu who has practiced law in Hawaii for 21 years.

Kagiwada also said she hasn’t yet reviewed the evidence the U.S. government says it collected during its years-long investigation into Kealoha and her husband, ex-police chief Louis Kealoha.

“My client, Ms. Kealoha, and I are looking at getting to the bottom of these charges,” Kagiwada said.

The Kealohas were indicted in October along with four Honolulu police officers for taking part in the alleged framing of Gerard Puana, who is Katherine Kealoha’s uncle. A fifth HPD officer already pleaded guilty and is working with federal prosecutors.

According to the indictment, the Kealohas and the officers worked to set up Puana for the theft of the Kealoha’s mailbox in 2013. They’re also accused of trying to cover their tracks by lying to federal investigators about the alleged conspiracy.

The Kealohas face additional charges for bank fraud and other financial crimes, including the alleged theft of almost $150,000 from two minors whose father died after a medical accident.

During Monday’s hearing to set a new trial date, Seabright made clear that he intends to hold the reins tight as he manages the case toward trial.

He said he expects the defense attorneys to give priority to the Kealoha case when it comes to scheduling, even if it interferes with other trials and hearings they might have.

And while he said he will be sympathetic regarding the sheer volume of evidence the government has collected during its investigation, he said the ultimate decision on any further delay will rest with him.

“The culture in this district is slow movement toward trial,” Seabright said. “This is not the culture in most courts. So you guys sit here and say, ‘We need more time, we need more time.’ I’m going to give you the time you need to go through the discovery. But I think this is enough time. It’s November. We’re talking seven months from now.”

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