She was identified as a victim in the case against the Kealohas, but was forced to pay legal fees

Katherine Kealoha’s grandmother forced to pay more than $100k in legal fees in corruption case

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Former deputy city Prosecutor Katherine Kealoha’s grandmother is appealing the case that ended with her paying more than $100,000 of Kealoha’s legal fees.

Florence Puana, who is 99, was ordered to pay up after losing her civil lawsuit against the Kealohas several years ago.

But the Kealohas have since been indicted, including on charges that the Kealohas defrauded Puana.

In an interview with Hawaii News Now in 2017, Puana said Katherine Kealoha abused her trust.

“I can’t even imagine anybody doing what she did," Florence Puana said.

But in a civil suit against the Kealohas before they were indicted, a Circuit Court jury sided with Kealohas, and said Puana and her son should pay hundreds of thousands in damages.

That order has stood despite the widening federal probe into the Kealohas.

In November 2016, a judge ordered that Puana’s bank accounts be garnished to pay $108,000 to Katherine Kealoha for legal fees and court costs.

That was most of Puana’s life savings.

Criminal law expert Ken Lawson said the garnishment is surprising.

“Nothing that’s gone on in this case shocks me now," he said. “The way you would treat an elder. The way you would treat a grandmother like this. It’s just reprehensible.”

Lawson feels the judge should have taken the news reports of the FBI investigation under consideration before garnishing Puana’s bank accounts.

Because the case is under appeal, there is a chance the lawyers would have to pay back the money is the judge is over turned.

But Honolulu attorney Victor Bakke thinks that’s an uphill battle.

Bakke says Puana won’t be allowed to introduce new evidence such as Kealoha’s federal indictment in an appeal. He says they can seek to overturn the verdict on the grounds the Kealola’s defrauded the court — but that’s hard to do.

“It would be usually the case where parties have to file a new lawsuit rather than going back to fix the one that they already had,” Bakke said.

Puana was supposed to be deposed Monday by prosecutors and attorneys for the Kealohas and indicted former HPD officers, but her testimony was pushed back after she became ill over the weekend.

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