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A fired Honolulu police officer who says he was targeted with criminal charges for speaking out against his former boss, Louis Kealoha, and his prosecutor wife, Katherine Kealoha, will be fined $500 and perform 60 hours of community service.
Sgt. Albert Lee faced charges of driving while intoxicated and lying to investigators after his police-subsidized vehicle crashed into a Hawaiian Electric Co. substation in 2016, knocking out power to about 1,700 residents in Hawaii Kai.
On July 15, Lee agreed to plead no contest to reckless driving to settle the charges. He was initially also charged with lying to authorities, but that charge was dismissed.
The Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney’s Office originally charged the case, but it was turned over to Kauai prosecutors after concerns were raised about possible conflicts of interest.
“Given the posture of the case and circumstances it came to us, this was the best way to resolve it,” Kauai Prosecutor Justin Kollar said Tuesday.
The Honolulu prosecutor’s office declined to comment.
Lee’s defense attorney, Megan Kau, said the deal was reached immediately after the case was turned over to Kauai.
She said her numerous conversations with the Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney’s Office went nowhere because officials there were seeking the maximum punishment possible against her client.
“This was a big problem,” Kau said. “It was clearly retaliation.”
The case has loose ties to the U.S. Justice Department’s ongoing investigation into public corruption and abuse of power in Hawaii government.
The day Lee crashed his vehicle into the substation he was scheduled to testify before a federal grand jury about his 2015 arrest of Michael Miske Jr., a local businessman with a long criminal history that includes kidnapping and assault.
According to police reports, Miske threatened one of Lee’s officers, Jared Spiker, after the officer pulled him over for using his cell phone while driving.
Before Spiker could issue a ticket Miske drove away. Miske then called the officer and told him he “better be careful of the choices you made.”
“I can press charges just as much as you can,” Miske said, according to police reports. “Don’t go throwing your guys weight around. I can go to the top of the food chain. You’ll see, Jared Spiker.”
According to Kau, her client received a phone call from Katherine Kealoha telling him to back off because Miske was helping her office in another case.
At the time, Kealoha was the head of the career criminal division in Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro’s office.
According to paperwork filed in the case, Roger Lau, who was a special assistant to Kaneshiro, called Spiker and demanded that he leave Miske alone.
Lau apparently was the same person who directed Kealoha to reach out to Lee.
Lee, however, ignored their requests and arrested Miske at his home in Portlock with the help of FBI agents for failing to obey a police officer, a petty misdemeanor.
“This was a big problem. It was clearly retaliation.” — Defense attorney Megan Kau
Court documents show that after the arrest Wayne Wills, who was an investigator in the prosecutor’s office, filed an internal affairs complaint against Lee at HPD.
In an email to the head of the division, Wills said, Lee’s actions were “over the top.”
He also mentioned in an email to Kaneshiro that Lau told him that Miske had done some work for him on a shelter for victims of domestic violence.
When the complaint was filed Kealoha’s husband, Louis, was still police chief. According to Kau, the complaint alleged Lee failed to submit an overtime card when he arrested Miske. Lee was served with the complaint shortly before he was set to testify against him.
Both Katherine Kealoha and Miske, through his attorney Thomas Otake, have said they do not know each other.
Kau, a former deputy prosecutor, said there were a number of problems with the criminal case against Lee.
The investigation went far beyond anything she had seen in a misdemeanor DUI case. Investigators performed DNA testing, flew a mainland consultant to Hawaii to analyze the car and even empaneled a special grand jury in an attempt to convict Lee.
On Oct. 27, 2017, the Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney’s Office even issued a press release saying it had filed charges against Lee for driving while intoxicated and filing a false report in relation to the accident.
The case was being handled by the office’s career criminal division, which Kealoha used to work for and which typically handled complex cases and those involving repeat offenders.
When the charges were announced, Kealoha was on unpaid leave because she faced a series of federal felonies related to allegations she framed her uncle, committed bank fraud and identity theft, and stole money from her grandmother and two children.
She was indicted by the Justice Department on Oct. 20, 2017, less than a week before Lee was charged by Kaneshiro’s office.
The Lee case was eventually turned over to the Hawaii Attorney General’s Office after Kaneshiro was served with a DOJ target letter indicating he was suspected of criminal activity.
It was one of several cases that were turned over to the state after concerns were raised about possible conflicts of interest. The attorney general then forwarded the case to the Kauai County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, which agreed to the plea deal.
Lee was terminated by HPD in May 2018. He has appealed the discharge.
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