Hawaii News Now reporter Lynn Kawano will not be called to the witness stand after all.

U.S. District Court Judge J. Michael Seabright on Wednesday issued an order effectively removing Kawano from the list of potential witnesses in the corruption and conspiracy trial of former Honolulu police chief Louis Kealoha, his wife, Katherine — a former deputy prosecutor — and three Honolulu Police department officers.

The decision comes after the Kealohas’ attorneys on Wednesday decided not to pursue efforts to call Kawano as a witness in this trial.

The Kealohas had named Kawano as a potential witness in the case, in which all five defendants are charged with allegedly framing a Kealoha family member for the theft of the couple’s mailbox. 

Retired HPD Chief Louis Kealoha Katherine Kealoha leave District Court today.
Cynthia Kagiwada, right, said she no longer believes Lynn Kawano needs to be on Louis and Katherine Kealoha’s witness lists. Kagiwada represents Katherine Kealoha in this case. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

A hearing on the matter was scheduled for Thursday after Hawaii News Now filed a motion asking Seabright to strike Kawano’s name from the witness list, saying it was done as retaliation stemming from her ongoing coverage of the Kealohas.

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On Tuesday, the Kealohas’ attorneys, Rustam Barbee and Cynthia Kagiwada, said they planned to oppose Hawaii News Now’s motion. But by Wednesday they had changed their minds.

Both filed statements in court saying they were no longer opposed to taking Kawano’s name off their witness list, at least for this trial.

“The defense listed Ms. Kawano as a witness based on information received through discovery,” Kagiwada wrote. “However, upon further reflection, it does not appear that Ms. Kawano has relevant testimony to offer with respect to the charges in the instant case.”

According to the Kealohas’ exhibit list, they wanted to introduce evidence related to Kawano’s emails and text messages.

Federal rules state that a witness can be excluded from the courtroom until it is their turn to testify at trial.

For Kawano, that would have would have stopped her from covering the case from inside the courtroom where all the proceedings take place. 

Lawyers for Hawaii News Now argued that such a situation was “not only fundamentally unfair — it would also violate her constitutional right to free speech.”

Hawaii News Now Chief Investigative Reporter Lynn Kawano Hawaii News Now

The Kealohas were the only parties initially opposed to Hawaii News Now’s motion.

The government and the Kealohas’ co-defendants — Derek Hahn, Minh-Hung “Bobby” Nguyen and Gordon Shiraishi — all filed statements of no opposition shortly after the news organization asked to have Kawano’s name removed from the witness list.

Because of the lack of opposition Seabright approved the motion and cancelled the Thursday hearing.

Jury selection, meanwhile, is expected to resume Friday.

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