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What happened to the hard drive that was recovered from Louis and Katherine Kealoha’s home on June 22, 2013, the day after their mailbox was stolen?
That was a central question posed by federal prosecutors Thursday, during the sixth day of testimony in the couple’s ongoing trial for criminal conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
The Kealohas are accused of framing Katherine’s uncle, Gerard Puana, for the mailbox theft with the help of several Honolulu police officers who were assigned to a secretive detail whose main mission is to combat organized crime and terrorism.
At the time, Louis was HPD’s police chief and Katherine a top-ranking city prosecutor.
One of the first witnesses to take the stand Thursday was Lynne Uyema, a legal advisor to the Honolulu Police Department.
She said that in 2014 she accidentally accepted a subpoena from Puana’s defense lawyer, Alexander Silvert, that requested access to the surveillance video from the Kealohas’ home the night of the theft.
In particular, Silvert wanted access to the video so that he could see what had occurred in the time leading up to the theft.
Instead, all he received was an edited copy showing what happened immediately before and after a man in a baseball cap and cargo shorts was seen stealing the mailbox.
“As far as I could tell everything we had had been turned over,” Uyema said.
According to the original indictment against the Kealohas and their co-conspirators, federal investigators were eventually able to find the missing hard drive.
They found it in the possession of HPD’s Criminal Intelligence Unit, which is the secretive division at the center of the alleged conspiracy.
Federal prosecutors called Tom Woodard to the witness stand Wednesday to explain what he saw when he reviewed the contents of the hard drive.
Woodard is a video recovery specialist with the FBI, who travelled from Quantico, Virginia, to Honolulu so that he could testify in the Kealoha trial.
He said that federal investigators retrieved several hard drives from CIU, and that he was able to recover still images that proved that some were used to conduct surveillance outside of the Kealohas’ home both before and after the mailbox theft.
Woodard also retrieved images of Minh-Hung “Bobby” Nguyen — one of the Kealohas’ alleged co-conspirators — walking to the Kealohas’ home with a hard drive in his hand.
What stuck out, though, was what was missing from the hard drives. There was no video showing what was happening outside the Kealoha household in the day immediately preceding the theft of the mailbox, which is exactly the time Silvert was interested in.
“I was able to extract images, but I was never able to recover the initial request, which was before the mailbox theft,” Woodard said.
Instead, what Woodard found was days’ worth of video footage of the ceiling tiles inside the CIU offices located at HPD’s main station in downtown Honolulu. That footage also captured images of several CIU officers who were working in the office.
In their indictment of the Kealohas and their co-conspirators, prosecutors said the hard drive contained nearly one week’s worth of footage of the CIU ceiling.
Prosecutors asked Woodard to point out the date stamps of those videos. The images were recorded in May 2014, which just so happened to be right after Silvert sent his subpoena to HPD.
Woodard said that while he can generally recover data that’s been deleted, “I cannot recover the data that’s been recorded over.”
Prosecutors called another witness, retired HPD sergeant Alvin Lum, to testify about the CIU protocol for handling hard drives.
Lum said he couldn’t think of a single instance in which the CIU submitted a hard drive into evidence.
But on cross examination by one of the defense lawyers, he said it is possible that an officer would “test” a hard drive by hooking it up to a camera and recording something innocuous like a ceiling tile.
“You could point the camera practically anywhere,” Lum said.
Silvert is expected to testify Friday when the trial is scheduled to resume.
After the jury was dismissed for the day, Katherine Kealoha’s defense attorney, Cynthia Kagiwada, asked Judge J. Michael Seabright if she could enter checks Florence Puana wrote to her son into evidence later in the trial.
The purpose of the checks, Kagiwada said, is to present a different theory of the case to the jurors — one in which Gerard Puana and not Katherine Kealoha was taking advantage of Florence for her money.
Seabright said he was skeptical, but noted that he would take the matter under consideration. Prosecutors objected to the evidence, saying it would only serve to “confuse the jury.”
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