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Former deputy city prosecutor Katherine Kealoha might not stand trial again until 2020.
Kealoha was convicted last month of conspiracy along with her husband, retired Honolulu police chief Louis Kealoha, of framing her uncle, Gerard Puana for the June 21, 2013 theft of their mailbox.
The couple also face federal charges of bank fraud and identity theft in a related case that was scheduled for trial in October.
But recent events — including the fact that Katherine Kealoha’s has a new defense lawyer — could delay those proceedings.
On Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge J. Michael Seabright held a hearing to determine whether he should reschedule the Kealohas’ bank fraud trial as well as another case in which Katherine is accused with her younger brother, Rudolph Puana, of drug trafficking.
The main issue was whether Kealoha’s newly appointed defense lawyer, Gary Singh, would be ready to go in time for the October trial.
Singh was tapped as Kealoha’s attorney last week after her previous attorney, Cynthia Kagiwada, quit over ethical concerns.
In a motion, Kagiwada explained that there was “an irretrievable breakdown” in her relationship with Kealoha.
Singh said he would need more time to prepare for the upcoming bank fraud case, and asked if he could delay the trial until January.
Seabright, however, wasn’t sold.
“I wasn’t thinking that long,” Seabright said. “This case isn’t that complicated. It’s a bank fraud case, and on paper it looks like the run of the mill bank fraud case.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Wheat, who’s the special prosecutor investigating the Kealohas and their associates, said he expects the trial to last four to five days, which is much shorter than the mailbox conspiracy case which took several weeks.
If Seabright delays the fraud trial, he said he would likely have to postpone the drug case, which is currently scheduled for trial in January.
Meanwhile, Seabright has yet to make a decision on when he’ll hear a motion for a new trial in the mailbox case.
Another of Katherine Kealoha’s defense lawyers, Earle Partington, who joined her defense team late in the trial, filed a motion last week saying that Kagiwada provided his client with ineffective counsel and that the guilty verdict should be thrown out.
Among Partington’s claims is that Kagiwada refused to call Alison Lee Wong to testify in Kealoha’s defense.
Prosecutors presented reams of evidence showing Wong did not exist and was a fake persona used by Kealoha to carry out her various criminal enterprises. Partington now says Alison Lee Wong lives in Kaneohe.
Seabright said he is considering waiting until sentencing to decide on Partington’s motion.
The judge also asked Partington if he himself wrote the motion, to which Partington responded he did with the help of Kealoha.
“And nobody else?” Seabright implored.
“Nobody else, your honor,” Partington said.
Katherine Kealoha is currently housed at the Federal Detention Center, while three of her convicted co-conspirators, Louis Kealoha, Derek Hahn and Minh-Hung “Bobby” Nguyen, remain free on bail.
They are all scheduled for sentencing in October.
Hahn and Nguyen are currently on unpaid leave from their Honolulu Police Department posts, according to an HPD spokeswoman.
The department is in the process of terminating both officers.
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