It’s been nearly three and half years since Gerard Puana filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against his niece, Katherine Kealoha, and her husband, Louis Kealoha, a retired Honolulu police chief.

Since then the Kealohas have been convicted of a number of federal crimes, including those related to their attempts to frame Puana for the theft of their mailbox in 2013.

Another one of their victims, Gerard’s mother, Florence, has also died.

Still, Gerard Puana’s lawsuit is stuck in legal limbo. That’s because the case was temporarily put on hold while the Kealohas stood trial on their criminal charges.

Left, Gerard Puana walks with Eric Seitz on arrival at District Court.
Gerard Puana, left, and his attorney, Eric Seitz, walk outside of the federal courthouse in downtown Honolulu. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The couple was supposed to be sentenced in March, but those hearings were delayed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Now Puana’s attorney, Eric Seitz, says his client has waited long enough.

“The longer this drags on the harder this is on my client and his family,” Seitz said. “There’s no reason why we can’t begin to move forward.”

Seitz sent a letter last week to U.S. Magistrate Judge Wes Porter asking him to lift the order staying Puana’s case.

Seitz says he wants to file a new complaint against the Kealohas and their co-defendants, which currently include the City and County of Honolulu and other current and former police officers alleged to have been involved in the frame job and other attempts to deprive Puana of his rights.

So far, Seitz said, he has yet to receive a response to his letter, which is short but goes into detail about how Gerard Puana has suffered over the years as the federal courts worked slowly to bring the Kealohas to justice.

“Gerard Puana has never recovered from the many years of lies, arrests, incarceration, threats, and financial ruin that he endured,” Seitz wrote.

“He suffers from post traumatic stress and cannot get (on) with his life while this litigation remains unresolved. Although he now has some satisfaction that people believe him when he describes the events that took place, Gerard urgently needs to move forward, but he cannot do so in the face of repeated delays.”

Puana’s mother, Florence, will never get that same opportunity, Seitz wrote, because she died in February at the age of 100. Florence Puana was a star witness in the Kealohas’ criminal trial as she described in detail the ways her granddaughter, Katherine, tricked her into getting a reverse mortgage on her home and then stealing the money.

Katherine Kealoha and former HPD Chief Louis Kealoha leave District Court after the Jury had questions, later that afternoon, the jury had a verdict.
Katherine and Louis Kealoha leave the federal courthouse just hours before a jury convicted them of framing a family member for the theft of their mailbox. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2019

“Their lives were adversely affected by the intolerable conduct of public officials who used their offices for their own personal advantage and the severe detriment of our clients,” Seitz said in his letter.

“Florence Puana lost the family home that she and her husband built together and in which she raised her nine children. She wanted to leave the home to her heirs when she died. Instead, Florence was forced to move into a tiny, cramped apartment where she lived with one of her daughters for the last six years of her life until she died before we could obtain any recovery for her.”

Seitz said that now the criminal cases against the Kealohas have all but resolved, there should no longer be any concerns about key witnesses self-incriminating themselves.

There’s also no reason, he said, the various parties can’t start filing paperwork with the courts to move the case toward a final resolution, whether it is settlement or trial.

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