HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A retired police officer who pleaded guilty in connection with the public corruption case against Honolulu’s former police chief and his wife detailed on the stand Tuesday how he participated in the alleged conspiracy to frame one of the police chief’s in-laws.
Niall Silva pleaded guilty in 2016 to lying under oath and to federal agents.
As part of a plea deal, he agreed to testify in the so-called “mailbox trial” against ex-Police Chief Louis Kealoha, his wife Katherine, and three Honolulu officers.
On the stand Tuesday, Silva admitted to making a number of false statements in police reports about the Kealohas’ mailbox theft as part of the alleged conspiracy. The government says the Kealohas engineered the theft in order to frame Katherine Kealoha’s uncle, Gerard Puana, with a crime.
Puana and his mother were in a legal dispute with Kealoha at the time over money they said she stole.
In court, special prosecutor Michael Wheat asked Silva, “Who did you conspire with?”
His answer: “My lieutenant, Derek Hahn, and Bobby Nguyen.”
Hahn and Nguyen, along with Maj. Gordon Shirashi, are the other three co-defendants in federal trial that revolves around the reported theft on June 22, 2013, of the Kealohas’ mailbox.
Silva worked with the three officers on trial in the Honolulu Police Department’s Criminal Intelligence Unit, a secretive division made up of hand-picked officers who focused on intelligence.
It was that unit, along with detectives in the Homicide Division, that investigated the mailbox theft. And it was members of that unit, the government alleges, who helped the Kealohas in the conspiracy.
Silva admitted on the stand Tuesday to making a number of other false statements in the reports.
He also said he didn’t go to the Kealoha home on the day the mailbox was reported stolen to recover the hard drive of surveillance footage, as he said he had in official police reports.
And in 2014, when he saw Puana in court facing charges of stealing the mailbox, Silva said “my heart sank” because he knew it wasn’t him in the surveillance video of the theft.
“I perpetuated the lie against someone who wasn’t guilty,” Silva said.
On the stand, Wheat also asked Silva why jurors should believe him when he previously lied under oath.
“Because I took the oath today and I would surely not put myself and my family in this position again,” he replied, choking up.
Attorneys for the Kealohas have said that they pursued charges against Puana because they were acting on the information they had. They deny there was ever a conspiracy to frame him.
Meanwhile, defense attorneys for the officers have tried to distance them from the Kealohas.
They’ve pointed out multiple times that it was Katherine Kealoha, a high-ranking deputy city prosecutor at the time, who identified her uncle as the thief in the surveillance video.
In cross-examination Tuesday, defense attorneys for all five defendants repeatedly noted that Silva had a history lying ― under oath, to federal agents and on his own police reports.
And in questioning from Rustam Barbee, Louis Kealoha’s attorney, Silva acknowledged that he’d never spoken to the former police chief about the mailbox theft.
This story will be updated.