We’ve been producing journalism in the public interest for 10 years, with the aim of making Hawaii a better place, and we have no plans to stop any time soon. But we need your help to keep this critical work going strong. For a limited time, donations to Civil Beat will be doubled, thanks to a matching gift from the NewsMatch program!
Civil Beat has raised $44,000 towards our $200,000 goal!
Federal prosecutors say Katherine Kealoha’s civil lawyer Kevin Sumida appears to have lied on the witness stand this week when testifying in her defense at a criminal trial involving allegations she framed her uncle Gerard Puana for the theft of her mailbox.
The motive for the set up, according to the government was a lawsuit Puana and his mother had filed against Kealoha that accused her of financial fraud and elder abuse.
Sumida was Kealoha’s attorney in the case.
Kevin Sumida has been accused of lying on the witness stand during the criminal trial of Louis and Katherine Kealoha.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
On Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Wheat asked Judge J. Michael Seabright if he could present evidence to the jury that Sumida lied when he was called to the witness stand earlier in the week to testify on Kealoha’s behalf.
Sumida was questioned Tuesday about his role in the civil litigation, which ultimately resulted in a judgment in favor of Kealoha.
But on cross-examination Wheat had pointed out that the case was fraught with issues, and that it appears Kealoha had used forged documents when allegedly bilking Puana and his mother out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Then, during Thursday’s proceedings, Wheat told Seabright that he and others in the courtroom, including U.S. Marshal Charles Goodwin saw Sumida thumbing through files on the witness stand during a brief break in the trial Tuesday.
Sumida has brought the files with him to testify, which allowed the government to seize the documents as evidence.
When the break was over Wheat asked Sumida on three separate occasions whether he was looking through his files. Each time Sumida said that he wasn’t.
Wheat said he wanted to call Goodwin to testify about his observations in the courtroom and to show the jury a video of Sumida flipping through his files and reading documents.
Wheat said it appeared Sumida might have actually removed something from the files.
“It goes to his credibility as a witness and his truthfulness and veracity on the witness stand,” Wheat said.
Seabright acknowledged that he had seen the video, and that there was “no doubt” that Sumida was looking through the papers.
The judge then read excerpts from a trial transcript to make certain Sumida had in fact lied.
WHEAT: Mr. Sumida, while we were on the break, what were you doing?
SUMIDA: Sitting and waiting.
WHEAT: Did you review documents while you were up there?
WHEAT: Were you looking through those documents?
WHEAT: Not at all?
Kealoha’s defense attorney Earle Partington tried to prevent the government from highlighting Sumida’s apparent dishonesty, but was unsuccessful.
Seabright allowed both Goodwin to testify and the video of Sumida going through his files.
Thursday’s proceedings wrapped up shortly thereafter with the government calling two more witnesses in its rebuttal to the defense, which rested its case Wednesday.
Kealoha, a former city prosecutor, is accused along with her husband, retired Honolulu police chief Louis Kealoha, of framing Puana for the theft of their mailbox on June 21, 2013.
Three Honolulu police officers — Derek Hahn, Minh-Hung “Bobby” Nguyen and Gordon Shiraishi — are also on trial for helping carry out the alleged conspiracy.
Court action is scheduled to resume next Tuesday with Seabright delivering instructions to the jury and closing arguments.
Stay Up To Date On The Coronavirus And Other Hawaii Issues
Before you go . . .
For the past several months our nonprofit newsroom has worked beyond our normal capacity to provide accurate information, push for accountability, amplify smart ideas and new voices, and double down on facts and context to write deeply reported local stories.
The truth is, our evolution as a public service news organization over the past 10 years has prepared us for this moment in time, when what we do matters the most.
Reader support keeps our small newsroom afloat. If you value the work of our journalists, please consider making a tax-deductible gift.