Unsealed records: Kealoha was prosecuting cases despite ‘serious’ medical condition

New records could force city to review all Kealoha-involved criminal cases over two-year stretch

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Records unsealed Monday by a federal judge show Katherine Kealoha was not capable of prosecuting cases for at least eight months between 2013 and 2014.

In a Feb. 13, 2014 letter, Dr. Jennifer Ito said Kealoha had a serious medical condition ― diagnosed nearly a year earlier ― that affected her ability to focus and attend legal proceedings.

The letter was for a state judge and got Kealoha out of a deposition in the civil case where her relatives accused her of stealing.

[Special section: The Case Against the Kealaohas]

“At my direction, she is on medical or sick leave from work,” Ito wrote.

But records Hawaii News Now obtained from the city Prosecutor’s Office show Kealoha, whose trial on federal public corruption charges is ongoing, had been going to work during that time period.

Dr. Ito letter to state judge
Dr. Ito letter to state judge

The list provided showed Kealoha claimed she work hours during those months.

Attorney Victor Bakke said the letter raises serious questions.

“She was incompetent to perform any job that required reasoning,” he said.

Bakke said Kealoha either ignored the letter or it was not legitimate.

“She was handling major cases at the prosecutors office at that time," he said.

Portions of the Honolulu Prosecutors Office summary from Katherine Kealoha's work hours
Portions of the Honolulu Prosecutors Office summary from Katherine Kealoha's work hours

In fact, Kealoha was heading the investigation into one of Bakke’s cases, the massive gambling case that resulted in the largest indictment in state history.

The case failed twice and resulted in admonishment for prosecutors from two different judges.

“That investigation went on for well over a year, even longer," Bakke said, "That letter is the time period she was in charge of that investigation.”

Kealoha led the investigation into game rooms during the time she was supposed deemed 'incapable' of handling legal proceedings
Kealoha led the investigation into game rooms during the time she was supposed deemed 'incapable' of handling legal proceedings

Attorney Victor Bakke says the document could affect many other cases and result in more civil suits against the city.

“They had an employee who was incompetent, medically-prohibited from doing their job and they allowed this person to prosecute these people," Bakke said.

Other documents unsealed Monday by U.S. District Court Judge Leslie Kobayashi show Kealoha still wasn’t cleared to return to work in June 2014.

Kobayashi opened the records after a request from the Civil Beat Law Center, which petitioned the court to see all the records from the federal case in which Kealoha’s uncle was accused of stealing her mailbox.

Prosecutors now say he was framed because Kealoha was trying to gain the upper hand in the civil suit among the family members.

According to the letter from Ito, Kealoha was already incapable of handling legal proceedings when she identified Puana as being the thief in her home’s surveillance video ― and when she was being interviewed by Honolulu Police Detective Dru Akagi about the theft.

“So she’s too sick to go to court to defend herself (in civil suit) but she’s fine with prosecuting people and collecting a paycheck,” said Bakke.

HNN asked the Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office if they ever got the notice of Kealoha’s medical condition, if they knew she was not able to work, and why her records show that she was working anyway.

The office did not respond.

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