Katherine Kealoha loses fight to keep personnel file secret, but questions remain

Updated: Apr. 9, 2019 at 6:18 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Circuit Court Judge Edward Kubo has reviewed Katherine Kealoha’s employment records from the Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney’s office, but hinted in court Monday that it didn’t provide all the information requested.

Circuit Court Judge Edward Kubo
Circuit Court Judge Edward Kubo

“I’m somewhat disappointed with the personnel file,” said Kubo, a former city prosecutor himself. He described from his own experience what information the file usually contains.

Kealoha, a former high ranking deputy prosecutor, has been trying keep the records secret, filing motions and briefs to prevent the court’s review.

Defense attorney Megan Kau asked for the records to see when Kealoha was head of the Career Criminal Unit -- the unit that went after her client, Albert Lee -- not a career criminal, but a former HPD sergeant.

Albert Lee with his attorney Megan Kau
Albert Lee with his attorney Megan Kau

Lee’s subsidized vehicle crashed into a Hawaiian Electric Company structure in November of 2016. Lee was found in the passenger seat, but he was charged with DUI and disobeying law enforcement.

At that time, Lee was a witness against Kealoha and was called to testify before the federal grand jury that would later indict her and her husband, the ex police chief.

Lee’s lawyer believes he was prosecuted because he was a witness in the public corruption scandal, calling it retaliation.

Judge Kubo said in a previous hearing, “Something stinks in this case and something doesn’t size up."

Attorney Victor Bakke, also a former city prosecutor, says it is concerning that Kealoha’s personnel records don’t include details of her reign over the Career Criminal Unit.

He says that information could be damaging and help prove vindictive prosecution.

“Kathy Kealoha shouldn’t have had anything to do with that case," Bakke said, “Shows that she went out of her way and out of her, basically, jurisdiction within the office, to tamper with that case."

Judge Kubo will finish reviewing the files and will mark the portions that need to be sent to the defense. He will send the entire file back to the Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney’s Office so they can make any objections on the record, or simply turn over the marked information.

The judge did bring up Kau’s other previous requests to see if Kealoha identified herself as head of the unit since it doesn’t appear to be in the personnel file.

“I’ll leave it to you as to whether or not, after reviewing what the court initially intends to turn over for discovery, as to whether or not you wish to pursue other avenues of obtaining that same information. Such as the distribution of telephone listings.”

Judge Kubo also mentioned internal memos. Kau wants those to see if Kealoha signs them as head of the unit.

The case is getting close to expiring for speedy trial violations.

Kau had been asking the Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney’s office to conflict itself out years ago, but they refused until Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro was forced to take leave as a target of the same federal corruption case that Kealoha is already indicted in.

The case is now in the hands of the Kauai Prosecuting Attorney.

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