When Trisha Kehaulani Watson first mentioned a while back that she was a friend of Katherine and Louis Kealoha, we immediately encouraged her to write a column on the subject.
Recently, Trisha found out that she was on the witness list in the case. After a discussion, we all agreed that her experience with the couple remained a valid topic.
As Trisha laid out in her column, she’s known Kat Kealoha for a dozen years and gotten to know her pretty well. That’s why she was surprised and saddened when her friend emerged at the center of what’s become the biggest public corruption investigation in Hawaii history.
Clearly, it’s a perspective on this case that no one has written about.
Louis Kealoha and Katherine Kealoha arrive at U.S. District Court on May 16.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
The column is careful not to go into detail about what she might say if she is ever called to the witness stand. That seemed like the right approach even though it wouldn’t be that far afield from the exhaustive detail that’s already been made public — from the prosecutors’ meticulous theory of the case to interviews with numerous others who are involved as alleged victims and even witnesses.
In the past five years, we’ve published more than 200 stories about the Kealoha investigation and others that have spun off from it. Many of the people we’ve interviewed or written about are among the 150 people who are now on the witness list put together by prosecutors and defense.
Still, some readers have wondered why we published the column and question whether it was an appropriate topic for a news outlet like ours. Some found it self-serving on Trisha’s part and were concerned that it was intended to paint a favorable picture of the Kealohas on the eve of the trial. Still others felt it was wrong for a potential witness to publicly weigh in at all.
Others appreciated it and saw the value of trying to balance the mostly negative view of the couple that has come from reporting almost solely on developments in the investigation and the prosecution side of the case. The defense has had little to say about the allegations, choosing to save their arguments for trial.
But Trisha wasn’t writing about the guilt or innocence of the Kealohas — or weighing in on the facts of an incredibly complicated and wide-ranging case. Trisha, who as a columnist is expected to offer her personal viewpoints, and the Civil Beat editors talked through the need for her to avoid writing about the merits of the case.
The column instead offered a personal look at the anguish of trying to reconcile what you know about a dear friend with the horrific deeds that Katherine Kealoha is accused of committing. That’s a struggle that likely resonates with lots of folks in Hawaii who knew the Kealohas.
At Civil Beat, we pride ourselves on offering readers a wide range of perspectives. And we think it’s important to explain to all readers our thinking behind this piece, beginning with the fact that the idea of writing the column was ours, not Trisha’s.
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Patti Epler is the Editor and General Manager of Civil Beat. She's been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years, primarily in Hawaii, Alaska, Washington and Arizona. You can follow her on twitter at @PattiEpler, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 808-377-0561.