The city has been fighting the lawsuit filed by Katherine Kealoha’s family members since 2016.

Gerard Puana and the estate of his late mother, Florence Puana, are set to receive a $2.85 million settlement from the City and County of Honolulu, bringing a close to a lawsuit that has dragged on for years, the plaintiffs’ lawyer said Wednesday.

The Puanas sued the county in 2016 after being victimized by former Honolulu deputy prosecutor Katherine Kealoha. Gerard is Kealoha’s uncle, and Florence was her grandmother.

Kealoha was convicted in 2019 for attempting to frame her uncle for the crime of stealing her mailbox and colluding with the police – including her husband, former police chief Louis Kealoha – to pull off the job. Both Kealohas are serving time in federal prison for that conspiracy as well as other crimes to which they pleaded guilty.

Gerard Puana arrives at District Court part of the Kealoha Trial. June 6, 2019
Gerard Puana was prosecuted for stealing his niece’s mailbox – a crime he did not commit. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2019)

The case was scheduled to go to trial in the coming weeks but was settled instead on Wednesday.

Gerard Puana’s attorney Eric Seitz said in an interview that the settlement will give the Puana family some measure of financial freedom, but the journey to get here was “painful.”

“Gerard has gone through 15 years of the most antagonizing experiences anybody can imagine,” he said. “You can’t give that back to him. He was arrested, he thrown in jail, he subject to horrible surveillance, he had to go to trial on the mailbox case and face the prospect of going back to jail, if that had not turned out properly.”

Closure in the case came too late for Florence Puana. She died in 2020 at age 100. But Seitz said the money will help restore funds that were taken from her by Kealoha in a reverse mortgage scheme. In the 2019 mailbox trial, the jury found Kealoha framed Puana to prevent him from exposing that scheme.

Ian Scheuring, a spokesman for the Honolulu mayor’s office, said the settlement will now go before the Honolulu City Council for approval.

“Until the settlement agreement has been approved by the Honolulu City Council, the City will decline the opportunity to comment further on the case,” he said in a statement.

Seitz, who has sued the county numerous times over police misconduct, said he would like the city to acknowledge that there were systemic problems that allowed the Kealoha debacle to happen.

“The degree of corruption that underlies this case is horrific,” he said. “I would like them to take steps to keep anything like this from reoccurring.”

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