If Keith Kaneshiro does the right thing — that is, if he does his job — by the time you read this editorial he will have come clean on whether he is — or he is not — being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice.

We already know that one of his deputies is reported to have been given a “subject” letter by the DOJ. And every other attorney in Honolulu says they are hearing that Kaneshiro, the city prosecuting attorney, is a subject or possibly even a target, as Hawaii News Now reported Monday without attribution.

But no one at the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office will say one way or another. To quote the kids these days, WTF?

Citizens of the City and County of Honolulu have been weathering a law enforcement storm that has raged since 2014, when the feds began investigating Louis Kealoha, the former Honolulu Police Department chief, for corruption.

Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro announces a 3rd possible trial for Christopher Deedy.
Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro in a 2017 photo. He needs to tell the public what is going on with the ongoing federal investigation. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2017

What seemed almost laughable at the time — the theft of a mailbox — eventually led to the indictment three years later of Kealoha and his wife, Katherine Kealoha, who at the time worked for Kaneshiro as a deputy prosecutor. Four HPD officers were also charged while a fifth pleaded guilty.

Louis Kealoha, appropriately, put himself on restricted duty after being targeted by the feds in 2016. He later resigned and was provided a generous $250,000 severance package by the Honolulu Police Commission. But he is also awaiting trial.

Kaneshiro is in a different position because the city prosecutor is elected; the position has not been appointed since 1980. But that does not mean a prosecuting attorney can’t be booted from office — something that Kaneshiro should keep top of mind should he continue to dwell in his Cone of Silence.

The City Charter says the prosecuting attorney can be removed in two ways:

  • by recall via a petition signed by registered voters equal to at least 10 percent of the total voters registered in the last regular election of the prosecuting attorney — which, in the case of the 2016 general election on Oahu, when Kaneshiro was last on the ballot — works out to just under 50,000 people; or
  • through impeachment for “malfeasance, misfeasance or non-feasance in office,” which would also come through a petition — this one requiring the signatures of at least 500 registered voters. Hawaii’s state courts would be the ultimate jurisdiction to evaluate any charges.

Kaneshiro is, to cite the well-worn phrase, innocent until proven guilty. But if he is a suspect in a federal investigation, he needs to take a leave of absence. The fact that we are even raising the possible need for recall or impeachment of a city prosecuting attorney — should Kaneshiro not tell us all what is going on — illustrates just how destructive this storm has become.

Kaneshiro, of all people, should be responsive to the people who put him in his taxpayer-funded office.

Having been first elected in 1988, he is in his third turn as prosecutor. He is a former deputy prosecutor, deputy attorney general and director of the state Department of Public Safety.

Kaneshiro has it in his power to lift the legal cloud of mystery that envelops the ninth floor of 1060 Richards Street. But by not doing so, he continues to raise suspicion about his own culpability while besmirching the men and women at the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office who are no doubt trying to do a vital job under very difficult conditions.

Come on, Keith: Do the right thing. And if you can’t, it’s time to call it a career.

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