With a handful of words, U.S. District Court Judge J. Michael Seabright informed the jury in the criminal conspiracy trial of Louis and Katherine Kealoha that their long days of listening to testimony are nearly over.
“OK, so that’s the entire case for the defense,” the judge said.
On Wednesday, jurors heard from the last few witnesses called to testify on behalf of the Kealohas and their three co-defendants, Honolulu police officers Derek Hahn, Minh-Hung “Bobby” Nguyen and Gordon Shiraishi.
They did not hear from any of the defendants themselves, ending speculation that Katherine Kealoha might testify in her own defense.
In all, there were less than three days of testimony from defense witnesses, a stark contrast to 12 days of witnesses called by the prosecution.
The Kealohas are accused of framing Katherine’s uncle, Gerard Puana, for the June 21, 2013, theft of their mailbox with the help of Hahn, Nguyen and Shiraishi.
The motive behind the scheme, according to the government, was to undermine Puana and his mother, Florence, in a lawsuit they had filed against Katherine Kealoha several months before that accused her of financial fraud and elder abuse.
At the time, Louis Kealoha was Honolulu’s police chief and his wife a top-ranking city prosecutor.
The last two defendants to present their case Wednesday were Hahn and Shiraishi.
At the time of the mailbox theft, Hahn was a lieutenant in HPD’s Criminal Intelligence Unit. Shiraishi, a captain, was his boss.
Hahn’s attorney, Birney Bervar, focused much of his client’s defense on where he was on June 22, 2013, the day after the mailbox was stolen.
Earlier in the trial prosecutors had called an FBI analyst to show that Hahn’s cell phone was pinging a tower near Gerard Puana’s home the evening of June 21 before the alleged crime took place.
That expert also showed that Hahn’s cell phone was being used in the vicinity of the Kealohas’ home the morning of June 22, many hours before Katherine Kealoha called 911 to report her mailbox was stolen.
Bervar called several witnesses to give jurors a simple explanation — Hahn was working his side job selling solar panels.
The first witness was Scott Clough, an electrical contractor, who had hired Hahn to help sell solar equipment in 2012 and 2013. Clough said that in 2013 alone, Hahn earned more than $200,000 through his company, which would equate to at least $1 million in sales.
Clough testified that when Hahn was working on new bids and proposals, he would visit homes throughout Oahu and send emails with photos of the potential job sites.
During cross-examination, Assistant U.S. Attorney Colin McDonald questioned Clough about his work installing a solar system on the Kealohas’ home in January 2013.
Clough said Hahn asked him to do the work at cost as a favor, which he agreed to do. Instead of paying $45,000 for the system the Kealohas spent $25,000.
“Why did you agree to do that?” McDonald asked.
“Why wouldn’t I want to do that,” Clough said. “There’s no reason not to. It’s at cost.”
He said he wasn’t losing any money on the deal and that he believed based on what Hahn told him that it would lead to a bigger job in the future, although he was vague about what new work would come from helping the Kealohas.
“He never disclosed who it was going to be or what it was going to be,” Clough said of his discussions with Hahn. “He just said later on that there was going to be a bigger and better job.”
McDonald also asked Clough about emails he received from Hahn on June 24, 2013, that indicated he had been doing work in the Kealohas’ neighborhood the morning of June 22 when FBI cell phone records showed he was in the area.
Clough said it was common for Hahn to send him photos of potential job sites when he was working on a bid proposal for a new solar project, but in this particular case, Clough said he could find no record of working on such a proposal.
“You don’t know why Derek Hahn sent you those emails on Monday, June 24?” McDonald asked.
“No, I do not,” Clough said.
Berver’s next witness, Neil Broom, a computer forensics expert, testified about metadata contained in the photos Hahn had emailed Clough.
Broom said that based on his analysis of the emailed images the photos were taken from 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. on June 22.
During cross-examination, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Orabona, noted the photos were taken with an iPhone 4s and that Broom had not actually inspected the phone itself when conducting his analysis.
Orabona showed Broom how it was possible to change the date and time stamps in the metadata simply by manipulating the settings, something Broom readily acknowledged.
Orabona also pointed out that the emailed photos Broom reviewed did not include GPS coordinates, another feature that can be turned off in the iPhone settings.
Bervar pushed back on the prosecution’s insinuations.
“Did you find any evidence of fraud or tampering with this case?” he asked Broom.
“No, sir,” Broom said.
Shiraishi’s defense was much simpler.
His lawyer, Lars Isaacson, called a single witness to testify about the fact that captains in the CIU did not have to sign daily attendance sheets. After that he put his defense to rest.
The case is far from over.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Wheat told Judge J. Michael Seabright that he plans to call a handful of rebuttal witnesses Thursday morning, but that he doesn’t expect the questioning to go beyond 10 a.m.
After prosecutors finish with their rebuttal witnesses Thursday, Seabright said he plans to take the next several days preparing jury instructions.
He said he expects closing arguments to begin Tuesday.
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