Campaign to impeach city prosecutor launched as he shows no signs of stepping aside amid federal probe

After days of silence, Prosecutor’s Office issues statement on widening federal probe

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - We can’t comment.

That was the message Tuesday from the city Prosecutor’s Office after days of declining to respond to Hawaii News Now’s requests for answers about a federal corruption probe that’s now targeting city Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro.

In the statement, the office didn’t say whether Kaneshiro will remain on the job, despite calls from inside and outside the legal community for him to step aside.

Instead, the office said it was continuing to forge ahead and couldn’t speak about any ongoing investigations.

The statement reads:

The dedicated and hardworking professionals at the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney, City and County of Honolulu, are unwavering in their commitment to protect public safety, achieve justice, and provide guidance and compassion for victims of crime.

Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure mandate that grand jury proceedings are secret. It is a violation of law for an attorney of the government, a grand juror, or others to disclose information about grand jury investigations.

The secrecy rule protects investigations and ensures a fair and unbiased process. Confidentiality also protects the identities of those involved sparing innocent people the ignominy of baseless allegations.

We do not comment on investigations any grand jury may or may not be conducting. Judgement should always be based on facts and not conjecture and be reserved until the legal process concludes.

On Monday, Hawaii News Now confirmed that Kaneshiro had received a target letter, which informed him that he’s under investigation in the federal probe that’s already led to two indictments against his former top deputy, Katherine Kealoha. Kealoha’s husband, ex-Police Chief Louis Kealoha, and several police officers have also been indicted.

Those cases are set to go to trial next year.

Kaneshiro has made no moves to step aside, prompting some to look into the impeachment process.

Among those pushing for his impeachment: A man who Kaneshiro’s office tried and failed to convict, twice.

Tracy Yoshimura was indicted first in 2014, then again in 2016 in one of Hawaii’s largest criminal indictment for a suspected gambling ring. But neither case made it to trial. In fact, judges thew out both and scolded the Prosecutor’s Office for using tainted evidence and testimony from a witness who apparently lied to the grand jury.

“I think the public has had enough of these corrupt acts and these officials' arrogance and refusal to admit their wrongdoing,” Yoshimura said, “I think this is the only route.”

Kaneshiro is elected, so voters can only remove him through a recall or impeachment.

Yoshimura is going door to door to collect signatures, using social media and a website called www.change.org to get the required 500 signatures to get a court hearing.

Former Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Peter Carlisle says it shouldn’t have come to this.

“He’s just putting his head in the sand,” Carlisle said, adding that Kaneshiro should resign to save the office from further embarrassment, “There’s a very serious implication for the safety of the community.”

Related coverage:

As pressure grows for Kaneshiro to step aside, experts say city charter has process to impeach prosecutor

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