Imprisoned former Honolulu deputy prosecutor Katherine Kealoha appeared in court Friday as part of her bid to overturn her corruption conviction.

U.S. District Court Judge Michael Seabright denied a request for bail but delayed decisions on her appeal and a challenge to an assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted her case.

Most of Friday’s hearing consisted of Seabright grilling Kealoha on what exactly she’s complaining about and what she hopes to accomplish by repeatedly filing motions.

“I can’t tell what you’re trying to do,” Seabright said, adding that he doesn’t know if Kealoha is getting advice from someone in Honolulu Federal Detention Center, where she’s currently serving her sentence. “You have to decide what you want to do. You can’t just keep filing something every other day. That’s going to stop.”

Former HPD Chief Louis Kealoha and Katherine Kealoha holding hands leaving District Court after jury deliberated.
Former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha and former Honolulu deputy prosecutor Katherine Kealoha are currently in prison. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2019

In 2019, a jury found Kealoha guilty of conspiring with her husband, former Honolulu police chief Louis Kealoha, and other HPD officers to frame Katherine’s uncle for a crime he didn’t commit: stealing the Kealohas’ mailbox.

Katherine Kealoha is now serving a 13-year sentence at the Honolulu Federal Detention Center for her role in that case and other federal crimes. After being convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice for the frame job, she pleaded guilty to charges related to a prescription drug ring run by her brother, and both Kealohas pleaded guilty to bank fraud.

In motions filed over the summer, Kealoha asked to be allowed to appeal the mailbox case, alleging that her court-appointed attorney Cynthia Kagiwada was ineffective and that her subsequent attorney Earle Partington neglected to appeal her conviction within the legal time limit.

She also requested to be released from prison on bail as her legal motions proceed in court. Seabright denied the bail request on Friday.

The federal government has until Sept. 30 to respond to a new motion regarding Kealoha’s appeal, and then Kealoha will have until Oct. 28 to give her response.

Meanwhile, in a handwritten filing submitted to the U.S. District Court last month, Kealoha alleged that Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Wheat obtained guilty pleas from her and her husband under false pretenses. According to Kealoha, during plea negotiations in 2019, Wheat’s team referred to the existence of a photo of Katherine doing cocaine on her husband’s HPD desk.

Katherine Kealoha said the photo doesn’t exist and called on Wheat to produce the photo or walk away from her case.

Seabright did not make a decision on Friday regarding her request for Wheat to produce the alleged photo.

HPD Kealoha case Federal Investigator Michael Wheat exits US District Court.
The judge didn’t rule on Katherine Kealoha’s request for Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Wheat to produce a photo of her doing cocaine on her police husband’s desk or be removed from the case. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

In a court filing, federal prosecutors said there is no basis for Kealoha’s request for appeal.

As part of her plea agreements in the bank fraud and drug cases, Kealoha admitted to the facts underlying her conviction in the mailbox conspiracy and apologized for her actions, prosecutors wrote.

“Sadly, she now claims innocence, layering ineffective assistance upon ineffective assistance claims to pin her convictions on her lawyers—not on her own actions in framing her uncle, defrauding her grandmother, stealing thousands from children, lying to banks, stealing the identity of a police officer, creating a fake notary public to legitimize her crimes, and more,” prosecutors wrote.

Kealoha had a one-year time frame to voice her concerns about ineffective counsel, and she didn’t. Now that the deadline has passed, the government said she stands no chance.

“Moreover, even if she were successful on her current motion, that would not vacate her conviction and lead to her release,” prosecutors wrote. “Far from it.”

Kealoha’s filings lack any indication that her lawyer was at fault for her conviction in the mailbox case, prosecutors wrote.

“On the contrary, it had everything to do with Kealoha’s own criminal actions and the mountain of evidence proving them,” they said.

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