HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Florence Puana, the aging grandmother of ex-deputy Prosecutor Katherine Kealoha, is having heart surgery this week as doctors implant two stents.
It’s a difficult surgery for anyone, and Puana is 99 years old.
“A very iffy situation," said federal public defender Alexander Silvert, who worked on the original mailbox case in 2013.
Puana’s son, Gerard Puana, was accused of stealing the mailbox from the Hawaii Kai home of Katherine and Louis Kealoha, the former police chief.
Puana was arrested and prosecuted — but the case was thrown out after the FBI instead learned that it may have been a set up.
In 2017, the Kealohas and other police officers were indicted, accused of framing the uncle for that mailbox theft, and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
Florence Puana is considered a key witness against the Kealohas and has been waiting years to testify in the case.
After a series of delays by the defense, the trial is scheduled to begin in May.
“She has been waiting to tell her story so this would be a travesty to her personally and to the system if she doesn’t survive and cant tell her story,” said Silvert.
Fearing she won’t make it through the heart surgery, the government filed a motion to get a recorded statement from Puana, saying she “may be unavailable to testify at trial.
They continued: “Her testimony is central to establishing one of the motives behind the charged conspiracy,” which stems from the financial family feud.
Silvert says it’s a good idea, but hopes Puana is strong enough to even do that.
“It preserves the testimony. It’s taken by camera, there’s a stenographer, the testimony is subject to cross examination by the defense,” he said.
The hearing on the motion to get the recorded testimony is scheduled for April 5. If the federal judge approves, that could happen by the end of April.