HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Former deputy city Prosecutor Katherine Kealoha tried to deflect investigations into her behavior by “surreptitiously sending emails from other deputy prosecuting attorneys’ computers," federal authorities alleged in a recently-filed court document.
Federal prosecutors made the claim in a motion that sought to increase Kealoha’s bond after a new indictment that charged her and her brother, Dr. Rudy Puana, with alleged drug crimes.
And at least one case the FBI worked on is connected to a 2016 email to Hawaii News Now.
The email came in a day after HNN reported on a speeding ticket that Kealoha fixed in court for her electrician.
In court documents, federal authorities said Kealoha was entering into a business relationship with the electrician as part of a massive solar farm project.
After airing a story on the ticket fixing, HNN got an email from a deputy city prosecutor’s address.
That deputy prosecutor worked under Kealoha, prosecuting felony crimes, and later testified before a federal grand jury about the message. The email claimed that Kealoha’s ticket fixing was all above board.
The author of that email then attempted to steer HNN in a different direction, alleging that Kealoha was having an affair with a Honolulu businessman who is also a convicted felon.
The email ended with, “Erase this will send more.”
Instead of erasing it, HNN replied to it. And within a couple of hours, the deputy prosecutor whose email address appeared on the message had a friend call the newsroom.
The friend wanted to make it clear that the deputy was not the email’s author. And the FBI now claims that Kealoha actually sent the message to HNN.
The deputy, whose name HNN is not using, told the FBI that someone sent the email using his computer while he was at lunch with others ― who verified his story.
He was very concerned about his email address being abused and, weeks later, he left the city Prosecutor’s Office for private practice.
Attorney Jon Burge now works with him and said the departure was a loss for the city.
“He was a rising star over there (and) when he left ... a lot of people weren’t too happy," Burge said.
Days after that first email, HNN was sent another email from a different address. The author scolded HNN for not deleting the first email.
“That was not very smart to respond. Poor kid almost got fired," the message said. “I’m disappointed that you haven’t figured some of this out. I hack account, to send you scoops."
The author of that email also again tried to steer HNN away from Kealoha.
“You are going in the wrong direction. Missing the real corruption,” the email said.
Burge said Kealoha could face even more charges for allegedly sending emails from other people’s computers in an attempt to misdirect investigators, including improper use of a government computer.
She already has more than 50 counts and is awaiting three federal trials.