Deputy sheriff’s testimony in Kealoha trial gets him into hot water

Deputy sheriff’s testimony in Kealoha trial gets him into hot water
Cayetano, pictured behind the glass of the federal building in Honolulu on Wednesday. (Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Department of Public Safety is investigating a deputy sheriff for possible misconduct after he admitted in federal court that he used state resources to do favors for Katherine Kealoha, a former Honolulu deputy prosecutor.

Tommy Cayetano told members of the jury that Kealoha ― who, along with her husband Louis, the city’s former chief of police, is standing trial for public corruption ― was a longtime friend and someone he admired.

During his testimony, Cayetano admitted that he used state vehicles ― while on duty as a state law enforcement official ― to transport Gerard Puana, Kealoha’s uncle, between the Oahu Community Correctional Center and Circuit Court.

Puana was funneled back and forth so that Kealoha could have private, one-on-one meetings with Puana in the cell block, Cayetano said.

Cayetano also testified that Kealoha asked him to transport Puana more than one occasion.

State Public Safety officials are frequently responsible for transporting individuals between OCCC and the courthouse. But Puana did not have a court order for transport or a court appearance scheduled on the calendar at the time of the meetings, making his transport in these instances highly irregular.

A spokeswoman for the Public Safety department told Hawaii News Now on Thursday evening that based on those irregularities the department was “obligated” to investigate Cayetano’s conduct.

The transport favors weren’t the only possible instances of impropriety.

Cayetano also admitted to pulling strings ― at Katherine’s request ― to get Puana entered into the Sand Island Treatment Center despite a long waiting list.

Federal prosecutors say Kealoha was trying to discredit Puana by saying he had a drug problem.

Cayetano testified that it’s very difficult to get into the facility without waiting periods of time that are frequently several months long.

After Puana was discharged from the facility, Cayetano testified that he ― again, using state vehicles and resources while on the clock as a deputy sheriff ― transported Puana from Sand Island back to OCCC because Katherine Kealoha asked him to.

Kealoha was not the deputy prosecutor assigned to her uncle’s case — not before Puana was admitted to the Sand Island Treatment Center and not after he was discharged.

Cayetano and Kealoha have a lengthy professional relationship that includes serving together on the Board of Directors for the Hawaii Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation.

On the stand, Cayetano said he had more than 30 years of law enforcement experience.

This story will be updated.

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