- Special Projects
Former deputy prosecutor Katherine Kealoha, who’s accused of framing her uncle with the help of Honolulu police officers including her former police chief husband, asked a federal judge Friday to delay her upcoming criminal trial so that she can receive cancer treatment.
The motion, filed Friday morning by defense attorney, Cynthia Kagiwada, says that Kealoha’s physicians recently told her she must receive “immediate treatment” for her cancer.
As such, Kagiwada is asking for Kealoha’s trial, scheduled to begin with jury selection on March 18, to be delayed until May 20.
Kagiwada also asked that she be allowed to file an exhibit under seal to support her motion. She said in court records that the secrecy is necessary to protect Kealoha’s medical privacy.
Recently unsealed documents in the case show Kagiwada tried last fall to have her client declared mentally unfit to stand trial.
Those records — which Kagiwada tried to keep secret — said that Kelaoha appeared to be suffering from a “mental disease or defect” that prevented her from understanding the “nature and consequences” of the charges she faced.
The documents did not reveal what medical condition Kealoha might be suffering from that caused Kagiwada to make her request.
An independent psychiatrist performed a mental evaluation on ,Kealoha, and although the results were not made public, a federal judge ruled she was mentally competent to stand trial.
Records obtained by Civil Beat from the Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney’s Office show Kealoha took nearly 1,700 hours of sick leave during two separate stints as a prosecutor between 2006 and 2008 and between 2010 and 2017.
The records — which Kealoha tried to block from being released via a lawsuit — also show she used more than 1,300 hours of vacation during that time. Combined, her sick leave and vacation accounted for 374 days out of the office, or nearly 75 work weeks.
Kealoha has asked for trial delays before due to unspecified medical reasons.
But federal prosecutors pushed back saying it was “suspect” due to the timing, her various showings in public and the fact that she has a “past practice of feigning serious illnesses.”
A Hawaii News Now story from October 2018 said that at one point Kealoha been diagnosed by with transient global amnesia by Jennifer Ito, a doctor based in Honolulu.
Ito has testified before the federal grand jury investigating Kealoha and others for public corruption and abuse of power.
According to the Mayo Clinic, transient global amnesia is a temporary lapse in memory in which “your recall of recent events simply vanishes, so you can’t remember where you are or how you got there.” The symptoms, however, only last for 24 hours or less.
Kealoha and her husband, former Honolulu police chief Louis Kealoha, were indicted in October 2017 for framing her uncle, Gerard Puana for the theft of their mailbox.
The indictment included four other Honolulu police officers who were accused at the time of carrying out the conspiracy and the subsequent cover-up. A fifth officer had already pleaded guilty and was cooperating with investigators.
The Kealohas were additionally charged with a series of financial crimes, including bank fraud and identity theft.
A judge split the case into two separate trials, one involving the mailbox conspiracy and the other related to the financial misdeeds. The financial fraud trial is scheduled for June.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Seabright, who is presiding over the cases, has already moved jury selection in the March 18 trial to the Blaisdell Center because more than 400 potential jurors likely will be called in. The trial is expected to draw intense media coverage and many spectators.
Kealoha is a former deputy prosecuting attorney. She has since been indicted on a series of drug charges along with her younger brother, Rudolph Puana.
The siblings are charged with running a prescription drug trafficking ring so that they could earn money for them and their friends while feeding Puana’s own cocaine habit.
Puana is a double-board certified anesthesiologist who owned and operated pain clinics in Hawaii, including on the Big Island, Maui and Oahu.
Recent court filings suggest Kealoha, too, was involved in the use of cocaine while she participated in the drug ring and steered police investigations away from her brother.
There are upsides to being a nonprofit as we carry out our public-service mission. We don’t have a paywall on our site, charge a subscription fee, or clutter our articles with ads. But this also means that reader support sustains every aspect of what we do. Without you, we don’t exist. It’s as simple as that. By donating, you’re supporting everyone on staff—and allowing quality journalism to thrive. If you value our work, will you make a tax-deductible donation today?