A federal judge has rejected an attempt by former Honolulu prosecutor Katherine Kealoha to remove from her case the federal prosecutor who put her in prison.

Kealoha filed a handwritten motion last month with Judge J. Michael Seabright seeking the recusal of Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Wheat.

According to court records, she made the request on the grounds that Wheat allegedly told her husband, former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha, that she once posed for a photo with cocaine on his desk. Kealoha claims the photo doesn’t exist but that the allegation was so explosive that it destroyed her marriage and unfairly influenced her and her husband to plead guilty to federal crimes.

Kealoha dared Wheat to produce the photo or step away from her case. Prosecutors, however, never claimed to have a copy of the alleged photo. They only claimed to know of its existence.

In a response filed in U.S. District Court, a prosecutor with Wheat’s office wrote that it was absurd to allege that a “cavalcade of horribles flowed from the prosecutor’s alleged mention of a photograph.” During her guilty plea to bank fraud and drug charges in 2019, Kealoha admitted to the facts of her crimes and said she was doing so without coercion.

To try to dismiss the prosecutor three years later makes no sense, the prosecution said.

“Kealoha’s fanciful arguments strain credulity and the law,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Colin McDonald wrote.

On Monday, Seabright denied Kealoha’s motion, finding that it had no legal merit.

“She has not shown, by clear and convincing evidence, that AUSA Wheat ever made the sort of misrepresentation that she claims,” Seabright wrote in his ruling. “Defendant has simply failed to demonstrate how the alleged statement by AUSA Wheat (which, according to Defendant she knew to be false) prejudiced her case or decision to plead guilty.”

Seabright also recently denied a request from Kealoha to be released from prison on bail and seemed exasperated with the legal motions she’s been filing from behind bars.

“You can’t just keep filing something every other day,” he said. “That’s going to stop.”

Support nonprofit, independent journalism.

During this election season, we hope that our coverage provides you with the information to make informed decisions on issues that you care deeply about.

Whether it’s affordable housing, education or the environment, these issues depend on your vote, and our ability to report on them depends on your support.

Every contribution, however big or small, allows us to continue keeping readers informed through election day and beyond. So, if you found value in our coverage, please take the next step by making a contribution to Civil Beat today.

About the Author