Florence Puana, an alleged victim and key witness in the U.S. Justice Department’s corruption case against former Honolulu police chief Louis Kealoha and his prosecutor wife, Katherine, has fallen ill and might not be able to testify at their upcoming criminal trial.
In court papers filed Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Wheat said the 99-year-old Puana was hospitalized this week with what he described as a “serious medical condition.”
Wheat’s team now wants a federal judge to authorize an immediate deposition of Puana, should her condition worsen, so that her testimony can be used at trial even if she’s unable to attend.
According to a declaration from Wheat, Puana has already agreed to participate in the deposition within the next 30 days despite her failing health. A hearing is set for April 5 to see if a judge allows it.
Puana is a central figure in the government’s case against the Kealohas and their alleged co-conspirators.
The Kealohas are accused of framing Florence Puana’s son, Gerard, for the theft of their mailbox in June 2013 with the help of a special unit of police officers.
According to prosecutors, the Kealohas were trying to discredit Gerard Puana in a lawsuit he and his mother had filed months before against his niece, Katherine Kealoha.
Additionally, they said Kealoha had spent that money to fund her own lavish lifestyle, which included payments to a Maserati dealer, a trip to Disney Land and a $26,000 party for her husband at the Sheraton Waikiki after he was named Honolulu police chief.
Florence Puana’s testimony at the first trial — focused on the mailbox teft — would be used to help establish the motive behind the alleged framing of Gerard Puana.
That trial against the Kealohas and three of their co-conspirators, Derek Hahn, Minh-Hung “Bobby” Nguyen and Gordon Shiraishi, is scheduled to begin with jury selection on May 13.
A second trial focusing on the Kelaohas’ alleged financial crimes against the Puanas and other victims, including two siblings Katherine Kealoha is accused of stealing from when they were minors, is scheduled for Oct. 21.
Stay Up To Date On The Coronavirus And Other Hawaii Issues
Before you go
Civil Beat is a small nonprofit newsroom that provides free content with no paywall. That means readership growth alone can’t sustain our journalism.
The truth is that less than 1% of our monthly readers are financial supporters. To remain a viable business model for local news, we need a higher percentage of readers-turned-donors.