HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Louis and Katherine Kealoha’s first trial in federal court will be pushed back to February, following a judge’s decision Tuesday.
The delay comes after Mrs. Kealoha claimed she was suffering from an undisclosed illness.
Federal Magistrate Judge Richard Puglisi said he reviewed 43 pages of documents to determine that the former Honolulu deputy prosecutor could not assist in her own defense.
The first trial for Mrs. Kealoha and her husband, the former Honolulu Police Chief, was supposed to start on November 14 on alleged financial crimes including forgery and identity theft.
Judge Puglisi delayed that trial until late February but an exact date will be determined this coming Thursday at another hearing.
Also at the hearing, the judge will determine when the Kealoha’s second trial should begin.
That second trial includes multiple other Honolulu Police Officers. All are accused of public corruption charges including civil rights violations and conspiracy to obstruct justice. It was scheduled to start in March.
Federal prosecutors contend that Mrs. Kealoha is faking illness to delay and said in a public court filing that this isn’t the first time she has cited serious medical infirmities in court.
Last year, Hawaii News Now was there as her doctor, Jennifer Ito, was called to testify before the grand jury at least twice.
Ito had diagnosed Kealoha with transient global amnesia. Records show Kealoha took more than 200 hours of taxpayer-funded sick time in 2013 and 2014, before eventually going on sick leave without pay.
The Mayo Clinic describes TGA as a sudden, temporary episode of memory loss where the patient sometimes will draw a blank when asked to remember things that happened a day, a month or even a year ago.
The website also says it is short-lived, lasting no more than 24 hours.
Medical conditions also delayed state Ethics Commission investigations into her and her husband, former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha.
An illness delayed a civil trial when family members sued the Kealohas over hundreds of thousands of dollars, which they claimed Katherine Kealoha stole from them.
Legal experts say this is a common tactic.
“This would be considered a last ditch effort to delay the case," said Victor Bakke, an attorney not associated with the upcoming trial, "The only one after this is that her lawyers are incompetent and she needs new counsel.”
Delaying a trial often benefits a defendant, especially one who is free on bond, as the Kealohas are.
“No one’s ready to get convicted," said Ken Lawson, with the University of Hawaii Williams S. Richardson School of Law, "The nature of the practice is to continue it out as long as you can so people don’t care anymore.”
Lawson said over time the public loses interest in a case and witnesses could be harder to get a hold of.
Part of the argument that Mrs. Kealoha wasn’t ill, cited a Hawaii News Now story where the couple were seen moving out of of their Kahala home after the government seized it. The court filing said that Mrs. Kealoha was “receiving and paying for food from a delivery service.” And that she has been out in public behaving in a way that would show she is able to stand trial.
Judge Puglisi has ordered that document with those details removed from the record, saying it was inappropriate for federal prosecutors to file it publicly instead of under seal, since it included matters related to the medical condition.