The Police Files Project BadgeDaniel Sellers, a Honolulu police sergeant fired after pleading guilty in 2019 to federal charges for helping former police chief Louis Kealoha and his prosecutor wife, Katherine, frame a family member for the theft of their mailbox, is slated to return to duty.

Sellers confirmed to Civil Beat on Monday that a third-party arbitrator ordered that he be reinstated with the Honolulu Police Department after he challenged his termination with the help of the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers.

The SHOPO contract affords officers numerous chances to appeal disciplinary actions, from written reprimands and transfers to suspensions and terminations. Arbitration is the last step in the grievance process and more often than not results in a reduction or reversal of punishment.

Kealoha case witness or defendant.
Daniel Sellers is one of several HPD officers who faced criminal charges as part of the Kealoha scandal. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2018

Documents released to Civil Beat under a public records request show Sellers is not the only HPD officer charged or convicted of a crime to remain on the police force. Numerous officers have returned to work after being accused of crimes ranging from domestic abuse and falsification of records to kidnapping and sexual assault.

Sellers declined to discuss the arbitrator’s decision or the reasons given for his reinstatement. Instead, he referred questions to his criminal defense lawyer, Richard Sing, who represented him in the Kealoha case, and SHOPO President Malcolm Lutu.

Sing declined to comment and Lutu did not respond to a request for an interview.

Interim HPD Chief Rade Vanic also did not respond to a request for comment. HPD’s response to a request for Sellers’ arbitration decision, which is a public record, is pending.

Sellers was one of four officers assigned to a secret intelligence unit within HPD who were indicted along with the Kealohas in October 2017 for taking part in an elaborate scheme to frame Katherine’s uncle, Gerard Puana, for the theft of their mailbox.

In January 2019, before the case went to trial, Sellers pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor count of illegally disclosing confidential material to Katherine Kealoha when he shared details from a federal law enforcement database about the types of vehicles registered to her uncle. He also agreed to work with federal prosecutors as they continued to build their case against the Kealohas and others within the police department.

U.S. District Court Judge J. Michael Seabright sentenced Sellers to one year of probation in April 2019 for his part in the larger scandal. During the hearing, Sellers apologized for his role and said he was merely trying to help Katherine, a fellow member of the law enforcement community who was also a childhood friend.

“Being a police officer is not a right, it’s a privilege,” Sellers said. “I forgot that. I got lost along the way.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Wheat, the special prosecutor in the case, also vouched for Sellers during his sentencing. Wheat said that Sellers’ action was based on poor judgment, but that his actions were not corrupt.

“There are times in everyone’s life when the runner stumbles,” Wheat said. “The question is can they get up and can they walk again, can they run again? Mr. Sellers has a long history of being an excellent runner, and I think this will be a stumble on his part. I think he will get up.”

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