Evidence of affair between Katherine Kealoha and firefighter included sexually-explicit photos

For months, the FBI has been investigating whether Katherine Kealoha was having an affair with...
For months, the FBI has been investigating whether Katherine Kealoha was having an affair with Hawaii County Fire Capt. Jesse Ebersole and using stolen money to pay for secret rendezvous with him. (Image: Hawaii News Now/file)
Published: Jan. 2, 2019 at 5:14 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The affair between ex-police chief Louis Kealoha’s wife and a Big Island firefighter was already one of the more salacious aspects of the ongoing case against the Kealohas.

But now a recently unsealed transcript shows that the evidence federal prosecutors used to substantiate that romantic relationship included sexually-explicit images in a cell phone seized from Katherine Kealoha.

The transcript, first reported on investigative reporter Ian Lind’s blog, was of Aug. 15 meetings between the judge, the Kealohas' attorneys and federal prosecutors.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Wheat was defending his team against accusations by defense attorney Cynthia Kagiwada that the government delayed turning evidence over, including copies of the sexually explicit photos.

Wheat explained that the process of unlocking the phones at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. took weeks, and then a paralegal who examined them felt the sexual material had to be encrypted.

“The disc that Ms. Kagiwada references contains photographs of nudity and genitalia,” Wheat said.

“Because of that, it was the practice of the office that anything that contained that would be encrypted, and that was the standard process. And it wasn’t produced in a way to prevent Ms. Kagiwada from getting it.”

The discussion happened a little more than a month before Big Island firefighter Jesse Ebersole pleaded guilty in court to lying to a federal grand jury about the affair with Kealoha, even after he was confronted with evidence.

Ebersole told a federal judge that he did indeed have a relationship with the former deputy city prosecutor, and that she was paying off his car loan.

Ebersole was brought before the grand jury last year as prosecutors sought to substantiate allegations that Kealoha used money stolen from relatives to pay for secret rendezvous with him, including for flight tickets and hotel rooms.

In the transcript of the August meetings, Wheat said the photos were important to the case because they “relate to Ms. Kealoha’s relationship with Jesse Ebersole, which is something that just came about when we had access to those phones that were searched.”

He continued: “Those phones were locked, and they were not able to unlock them until a great period of time after the search warrant. Once those things were discovered, that’s when Mr. Ebersole was contacted, and those phones were verified, and they were produced."

Other evidence that tied Kealoha and Ebersole were credit card statements and receipts, which showed Kealoha spending money on gifts and visits with Ebersole.

The Kealohas face two trials this year — one for bank fraud and the second involving an alleged effort involving several Honolulu police officers to frame Katherine Kealoha’s uncle with a federal offense — stealing the couple’s mailbox.

Ebersole is expected to testify and be sentenced after the cases are complete.

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