HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha and his wife, deputy city Prosecutor Katherine Kealoha, have hired a prominent criminal defense attorney to represent them in the potential federal criminal case against them.
In an interview Wednesday with Hawaii News Now, attorney Myles Breiner said he and the Kealohas expect there will be a grand jury indictment in the case.
Breiner stressed that if there is an indictment, it would not mean the Kealohas were guilty.
"The Kealohas retained my services because they're concerned they're being publicly pilloried. There have been leaks on the grand jury," he said.
Grand juries are secret proceedings where jurors only hear one side of a case – from the prosecutor. Breiner quipped that prosecutors can "indict a dead horse" if they want to.
"We expect at some point an indictment," Breiner said, adding, "It is virtually impossible not to get an indictment if you're a U.S. attorney."
Hawaii News Now has previously reported that the federal grand jury has been investigating potential civil rights violations against the Kealohas, a politically powerful couple alleged to have used elite police units to investigate relatives while they were involved in a family financial dispute. The Kealohas had always maintained that they were never officially notified of the FBI case that Hawaii News Now was reporting on. Breiner has sent a letter notifying the special prosecutor appointed to oversee the case, Michael Wheat, from the San Diego U.S. Attorney's office, that he is representing the political power couple.
Attorney David Simons specializes in employment law and worker rights. He said the city charter protects the police chief's employment, even when it comes to a federal grand jury indictment.
"We don't run this country based on indictments," Simons said.
"You could also argue that you're innocent until proven guilty and the mere factor you're going to be indicted, under the American system of justice, does not prove guilt at all," said Simons.
Ken Lawson from the University of Hawaii Law Schools says it's clear, hiring Breiner proves, the Kealohas are worried, "When you hire a high profile attorney, and a good attorney like Myles Breiner, it's clear to everybody that they're under investigation you don't pay money to an attorney for nothing."
Since the federal probe was launched more than a year ago, there have been growing calls for the police chief to step down or place himself on leave.
The Honolulu Police Commission has said, however, that it cannot act "on rumors." The commission has the power to hire and fire the chief of police.
On Wednesday, police commission Chairman Ron Taketa expressed surprise at Breiner's statements, which essentially remove any doubt that there is a federal investigation into the Kealohas.
"This is brand new information to the commission," he said, in an emailed statement to Hawaii News Now.
"We will have to get together with the commissioners and meet with the chief before making any decision or comment. The commission has the ability to take necessary and appropriate action."
Breiner did say Wednesday that if the Kealohas are indicted, they intend to step down.
Mobile users: Click here a timeline of the police chief's tenure.