Until late last week it was still fun to think of who might play Louis and Katherine Kealoha in a movie version of their criminal saga.

It’s not fun anymore.

What began as a mild mystery over a stolen mailbox has led to guilty verdicts for the Kealohas and two police officers on charges of conspiracy and obstruction. The swiftness of the jury’s deliberation and the subsequent detention of Katherine to jail came as a shock to even those who never doubted their guilt.

While some may chuckle at the thought of Katherine, the former deputy city prosecutor, and Louis, the former police chief, behind bars, this is very serious stuff.

Former HPD Chief Louis Kealoha puts his arm on Katherine Kealoha while waiting in the line to go through security outside District Court.
Louis Kealoha puts his arm on Katherine Kealoha while waiting in the line to go through security at U.S. District Court, June 25. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2019

And while some tone-deaf politicians — we’re looking at you, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell — might say it’s time to move on, there remain two more trials involving one or both Kealohas, barring a possible plea bargain. Katherine’s attorney is already talking about an appeal of the recently concluded trial.

In the meantime, questions remain about Katherine’s former boss, city prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro, and the city’s top attorney Donna Leong, a Caldwell cabinet appointee. Both received target letters from the FBI in the Kealoha investigation.

Due process must run its course, but it seems the Kealoha case is more than just the tale of a power couple gone rogue. It raises fundamental questions about a culture of silence that allowed the Kealohas and their enablers to do as much damage as they did.

Is it really plausible that no one else in the Honolulu Police Department, the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and the Corporation Counsel’s Office knew what was going on? Several cops took the witness stand to testify that they were first-hand witnesses to the strange activity.

Do we really think that new leadership at HPD and the Honolulu Police Commission ensures that we may never see the likes of the Kealohas and their cohorts again?

And what other evils need to be rooted out in city government?

Ultimately, this is about how the citizens of the City and County of Honolulu feel about their representative government. If ethical leadership is important, we are the gatekeepers of those we elect to office and who they appoint to serve with them.

We hope that the Kealoha verdicts will embolden others to come forward and blow the whistle when they witness wrongdoing.

On a broader level, the state needs to make sure new oversight boards like the one reviewing officer-involved shootings, the new police standards and training board and even the newly created prison oversight commission are given the resources and the power to provide adequate oversight.

Given the recent verdicts in the Kealoha case, it’s mind-boggling that the police shootings board is even considering not making its findings public after it reviews how police behaved in cases that result in a citizen’s death or injury.

The punishment of Louis and Katherine Kealoha is a clarion call for greater vigilance and the frank awareness that it can occur anywhere and at any time.

And if you need a reminder, the next time you fly out of Daniel K. Inouye International Airport look toward the nearby Federal Detention Center and think of its newest resident and how she got there.

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