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A federal judge on Monday agreed to postpone the first in a series of criminal trials facing former Honolulu prosecuting attorney Katherine Kealoha and her co-defendants in order to give her time for cancer treatments.
She is accused of a host of offenses, including bank fraud, illegal drug dealing and a conspiracy in which the former prosecutor allegedly framed her uncle with the help of Honolulu police officers. Her husband, former Honolulu police chief Louis Kealoha, is a co-defendant on all the cases except the illegal drug dealing charge.
The ruling by federal District Court Judge J. Michael Seabright means the federal government’s case against Katherine Kealoha will go to trial May 15, when jury selection is scheduled to begin. The trial previously was scheduled to begin March 18.
Attorneys for Louis Kealoha and several police officers who are to be tried together with Katherine Kealoha, told Seabright they preferred to stick to the original trial date. But Seabright granted Katherine Kealoha’s request to push the trial date back.
Kealoha’s attorney, Cynthia Kagiwada, had asked for the delay, saying it was needed so Kealoha could get cancer treatment that she needed immediately. Kealoha’s request was supported by an exhibit the judge allowed to be sealed to protect Kealoha’s medical privacy.
On Monday, Seabright heard from an oncologist in a session that was closed to the public. Afterward, in an open session, Seabright said he would agree to delay the trial because there was a risk Kealoha wouldn’t be able to “contribute in a meaningful way in part of the trial.”
Former deputy city prosecutor Katherine Kealoha’s first criminal trial in a law enforcement corruption trial was delayed until May 15.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
The successful motion to delay the trail was the latest in a series of bids the former high-ranking prosecutor had made to stall a trial.
Recently unsealed documents in the case show Kagiwada tried last fall to have her client declared mentally unfit to stand trial. Those records said 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.
An independent psychiatrist performed a mental evaluation on Kealoha, and a federal judge ruled she was mentally competent to stand trial.
Kealoha has asked for trial delays before due to unspecified medical reasons.
The trial, which is the first of a series Kealoha faces, focuses on an alleged conspiracy involving Kealoha and her husband, Louis Kealoha, the former Honolulu Police Chief. The Kealohas 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 also initially indicted for a series of financial crimes, including bank fraud and identity theft. However, Seabright split the case in two, ruling that the purported mailbox conspiracy wasn’t related to the alleged bank fraud, which centered on Katherine Kealoha allegedly stealing money from trust accounts of minors for whom she was a trustee.
More recently, federal prosecutors indicted Katherine Kealoha on a series of drug charges along with her younger brother, Rudolph Puana. Prosecutors allege the siblings ran an illegal prescription opioid drug ring out of Puana’s Big Island pain clinic.
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