The shutdown of the federal government has left an army of federal workers either furloughed or working for free, resulting in a spectrum of staff reductions from national parks and museums to agencies like the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which provides data on things like the U.S. gross domestic product.
Now, according to a new filing in federal court, the shutdown has another casualty: Katherine Kealoha’s ability to get a fair trial and effective legal representation. Both are rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.
Kealoha, a former Honolulu deputy prosecuting attorney, is being represented by counsel appointed by the federal government as Kealoha faces separate trials for conspiracy and bank fraud. The problem, Kealoha’s attorney Cynthia Kagiwada says, is that the government has quit paying the defense team.
That means no money for attorneys, paralegals, investigators or expert witnesses.
“I have been attempting to secure expert witnesses and other vendors to assist with trial preparation and trial,” Kagiwada wrote in a declaration filed with the court on Wednesday. “At least one vendor has definitely stated that his company cannot provide work, with no assurances as to when payment will be made.”
In addition, as a sole practitioner, Kagiwada says she can’t foot the bill to cover all these expenses herself. So she’s asking U.S. District Court Judge J. Michael Seabright for a continuance for the first trial, which is scheduled to start March 18.
Kealoha and her husband, former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha, were indicted in October 2017. They face federal trials for bank fraud and for an alleged conspiracy in which the couple allegedly used city resources and police officers to frame a relative who was engaged in a family dispute with the Kealohas over money. The conspiracy trial is the one scheduled for March.
Four Honolulu police officers have also been indicted. On Friday, one of them, Sgt. Daniel Sellers, pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor count as part of a deal with federal prosecutors in exchange for all other charges against him being dropped. He’s also agreed to cooperate with a continuing FBI investigation into alleged corruption in the police department and the Honolulu city prosecutor’s office.
The federal government’s widening investigation continues to ensnare government officials. Earlier this week, Honolulu’s top attorney, Corporation Counsel Donna Leong, went on paid leave after being notified by federal prosecutors that she is a target in the ongoing, years-long corruption probe. Mayor Kirk Caldwell said on Monday that he and Leong had mutually agreed that she would take a leave of absence with pay to avoid any distraction that could be brought by the target letter.
Although Caldwell provided few details about the letter, he did say it involves a $250,000 severance payment made to Louis Kealoha. The chief retired in February 2017 with his full retirement pension, benefits and the severance check, which he is required to repay if he is convicted of a felony within six years of retirement.
In addition, Katherine Kealoha’s former boss, Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro, also has received a target letter. The prosecutor has refused to talk about the investigation targeting him and has continued to stay on the job.
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