Taxpayers spent nearly $700,000 in attorneys’ fees for the defense of the Kealohas and a Honolulu police officer during the sweeping federal probe of public corruption in Hawaii.

The U.S. District Court of Hawaii released a new report Thursday afternoon detailing the monies paid to the court-appointed attorneys of Katherine and Louis Kealoha and Minh-Hung “Bobby” Nguyen, who were convicted in June of conspiracy and obstruction charges.

The defense fees were paid last week, according to the court.

They were found guilty of conspiring to frame Katherine Kealoha’s uncle, Gerard Puana, for the theft of the Kealoha’s mailbox from their Kahala home. Another defendant, Derek Hahn, was also found guilty, but his fees are not included in this report because he had a private attorney.

Former HPD Chief Louis Kealoha and Katherine Kealoha arrive at District Court.
Former HPD Chief Louis Kealoha and Katherine Kealoha arrive at District Court. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2019

The Kealohas also pleaded guilty to additional crimes last month. In a separate federal criminal case, Louis Kealoha pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud, while Katherine Kealoha pleaded guilty to bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.

In another case involving her brother, Rudolph Puana, Katherine Kealoha also pleaded guilty to misprision, the legal term for concealment, of a felony.

Sentencing for the Kealohas and their co-defendants is scheduled for March.

Katherine Kealoha had the largest bill. Cynthia Kagiwada, her former attorney who resigned in July after expressing her ethical concerns over Katherine Kealoha’s behavior, was paid more than $400,000 in expenses, including about $206,000 in direct payments to her. The rest of the funds were split among payments to Kagiwada’s associate and paralegal, as well as other expenses.

Kagiwada could not immediately be reached for comment.

Since Kagiwada resigned, Honolulu attorney Gary Singh has been appointed in her place. Singh’s expenses were not included in the new report.

District Court spokeswoman Lian Abernathy said Singh has not submitted any vouchers yet. She also said that there are still some vouchers that have not yet been processed for the other attorneys and the figures in the report reflect payments made as of last week.

Katherine Kealoha also has a private attorney, Earle Partington, who has said he is being paid by her family and has since filed a motion to withdraw as her attorney. A hearing is set for Friday morning to see if the judge will allow him to resign.

Rustam Barbee, who represents Louis Kealoha, was approved for more than $250,000 in expenses, about $155,000 of which go to his fees. About $78,000 was spent on hiring experts during the trial, while more than $16,000 went to miscellaneous expenses.

Abernathy said those expenses can include travel reimbursements, parking, postage and copying.

Barbee declined to comment.

Nguyen’s attorney, Randall Hironaka, was approved for about $37,000, including $32,000 in direct fees to him. The majority of the remainder was for transcripts.

Hironaka could not immediately be reached for comment.

“I’m stunned,” said Eric Seitz, an attorney who represents Gerard Puana in a civil case against Katherine Kealoha. “I have no doubt that those lawyers did all the work, because they are very competent and principled lawyers, but that is a stunning amount of money.”

Taxpayers should not have to bear this cost, he added.

Catch up on coverage of the Justice Department investigation and prosecution of the Kealohas and others here.

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