After 12 days and 55 witnesses, Kealoha ‘mailbox trial’ takes a week off

Kealoha mailbox trial takes a week off, could wrap by the end of June

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Kealoha public corruption trial is taking a break after 12 days and 55 witnesses.

The break gives the courts, the attorneys, and the 17 jurors, some from neighbor islands, time off.

Friday the government briefed the judge on progress, saying they have three to four more witnesses to call and expect to rest the day trial resumes, Monday, June 17 in the late afternoon, or Tuesday morning at the latest.

Kealoha mailbox trial (Sketch: Carley Shimizu)
Kealoha mailbox trial (Sketch: Carley Shimizu)

The defense told the judge they need about a week total.

Cynthia Kagiwada, Katherine Kealoha’s attorney expects to take two days.

Rustam Barbee, Louis Kealoha’s attorney and Lars Isaacson, Gordon Shiraishi’s attorney each say they need about a day to a day and a half.

Kealohas and Louis's attorney, Rustam Barbee
Kealohas and Louis's attorney, Rustam Barbee

Birney Bervar, attorney for Derek Hahn, and Randy Hironaka, attorney, for Bobby Nguyen said they each need just a few hours.

Derek Hahn and attorney Birney Bervar leave federal court
Derek Hahn and attorney Birney Bervar leave federal court

The defense team would not say if any of the defendants will take the stand. Obviously that will extend the trial.

Fmr. HPD Major Gordon Shiraishi and his attorney Lars Isaacson
Fmr. HPD Major Gordon Shiraishi and his attorney Lars Isaacson

Friday, a video enhancement expert from the FBI, Noel Herold took the stand. He was able to improve the lighting on the Kealoha surveillance video.

The version he worked on does give a clearer picture of the mailbox theft and still pictures he provided gives a better view of the person in the video.

However, you still cannot make out the features of the person taking the mailbox.

It does, though, make it clear, it is not Gerard Puana.

Puana, is the alleged victim. The government says he was framed for the theft because of a financial feud with the Kealohas.

Former HPD officer Rick Ornellas also took the stand to discuss Alison Lee Wong. The government alleges that’s an imaginary person Katherine Kealoha created to help her get financial documents, job recommendations and legitimize projects she is working on.

Ornellas received multiple emails from an address, alisonleewong@gmail.com.

“I am Kathy Kealoha’s secretary,” is how one of those started. The author is organizing a party in Kahala and several others are on the email list, including Jesse Ebersole.

Jesse Ebersole leaves federal court
Jesse Ebersole leaves federal court

Ebersole has already pleaded guilty to lying to the grand jury about his long term affair with Katherine. Ebersole is not part of this trial, but the next trial the Kealohas are facing.

Ornellas said he responded to the email from Alison Lee Wong, even asked her to call him about the party, but he testified that he never got a call back.

Ornellas said he never met her and never spoke with her.

The final witness ahead of the break, Gerald Kurashima. Kurashima was the attorney for the Puanas in the civil case, which the Puanas lost.

Kurashima’s testimony focused on Katherine’s deposition ahead of the civil trial in 2013 also dealing with Alison Lee Wong.

Judge J. Michael Seabright did ask the government how many more witnesses would be called to discuss the issue.

“What I thought the judge was saying was, we all know she ain’t real,” said HNN legal analyst Ken Lawson, "How many more times and how many more witnesses are you going to put on to tell us what we already know, that she doesn’t exist.”

The government played audio recordings of Bobby Nguyen during his grand jury appearances in 2016.

Nguyen identified Puana as the thief in the mailbox video one day after the crime.

He also admitted to providing security for Katherine Kealoha when she was called for depositions.

Bobby Nguyen and his attorney, Randy Hironaka leave federal court
Bobby Nguyen and his attorney, Randy Hironaka leave federal court

The government alleges the Kealohas used the Honolulu Police Department’s CIU officers as their personal security detail.

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