Prosecutors called their last witnesses to testify in the federal drug trial against Rudolph Puana on Tuesday without questioning his sister, disgraced former Honolulu Deputy Prosecutor Katherine Kealoha.

Kealoha, who is serving a 13-year sentence in a federal prison in California, was included on the prosecution’s witness list in the trial against Puana, an anesthesiologist accused of running a prescription drug ring.

However, the prosecution told Judge J. Michael Seabright that it would not be calling on Kealoha to testify as it prepared to rest on the sixth day of the trial in the U.S. District Court in Honolulu.

Katherine Kealoha leave District court.
Katherine Kealoha was not called to testify before the prosecutors in the case against her brother. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2018

Federal prosecutors said that Kealoha assigned herself as the lead prosecutor in a Honolulu Police Department investigation into accused drug dealer Tiffany Masunaga to steer police scrutiny away from her brother, who allegedly supplied narcotics to Masunaga through a longtime friend.

Last week, the jury heard from a pair of HPD officers — Kealoha’s former boyfriend Sgt. Daniel Sellers and HPD Sgt. Grant Jhun — who said Kealoha showed up in person at the raid at Masunaga’s Waiola home in August 2015, which Jhun said was unusual.

Jhun said Kealoha then began holding meetings with Masunaga and her attorney, Myles Breiner, without HPD officers present.

Masunaga, who would ultimately avoid conviction on numerous drug charges, also was included on the prosecution’s witness list, but was not called to testify.

The prosecution is expected to rest following testimony from Dr. Gregory Polston, who took the stand on Tuesday and will continue testifying on Wednesday. The defense will then begin its case.

Federal prosecutors did not provide details about why they declined to call Kealoha, but she could still take the stand if the prosecution seeks to rebut evidence introduced by the defense.

Kealoha’s inclusion as a potential witness for the prosecution was a point of contention in the lead-up to Puana’s trial, which had been delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Puana was indicted in September 2019 on charges that include health care fraud and conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and fentanyl.

Clinton Broden, Puana’s lawyer, filed a motion last month to admit statements U.S. attorneys previously made about Kealoha, who pleaded guilty to charges in Puana’s case and to corruption charges involving  ex-Honolulu police chief and her former husband, Louis Kealoha, in October 2019.

In that motion, Broden claimed the prosecution was planning to speak “out of both sides of its mouth” by calling Kealoha as a witness after federal prosecutors branded her a liar in the criminal conspiracy case involving Louis Kealoha.

Seabright denied the motion after U.S. Attorney Colin McDonald responded by calling Broden’s complaint an attack on the prosecution, not Kealoha’s truthfulness.

The defense has indicated that it plans to argue that the thousands of opioid pills Puana allegedly prescribed to his friends — Chris McKinney, Josh DeRego and Elena Rodriguez — were legitimate.

“For example, Dr. Puana prescribed opioids to Chris McKinney for well established chronic back pain; he prescribed opioids to Joshua DeRego for shoulder pain that eventually required two operations; and he prescribed opioids to Elena Rodriguez (DeRego’s wife) for chronic regional pain syndrome related to her knee which led a surgeon to recommend surgery,” Broden wrote in a brief before the trial kicked off.

Broden has since questioned McKinney, DeRego and Rodriguez about these injuries while cross-examining them on the witness stand over the past week.

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