The fallout from the Kealoha case could last for years ... and cost taxpayers millions more

The fallout from the Kealoha case could last for years ... and cost taxpayers millions more

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Guilty verdicts are in against Katherine and Louis Kealoha in one of the biggest public corruption trials in Hawaii history, but the city’s top civil attorney and prosecutor are still under federal investigation for issues tied to the Kealoha case.

On Friday, Honolulu’s mayor said he’s focused on other things.

“I think we now move on. focus on what needs to be done to make our city even safer,” Caldwell said. “And let the rest of the justice meted out and let the judge rule, sentence and we move on.”

Donna Leong, the city’s corporation counsel, and city Posecutor Keith Kaneshiro are both on leave pending the investigation. Kaneshiro is also facing an impeachment trial.

Meanwhile, there’s the potential for more fallout from the investigation.

The guilty verdicts against the Kealohas aren’t supposed to have a direct impact on civil lawsuits against the couple and the city.

But it could help attorneys for Gerard Puana, Katherine Kealoha’s uncle and the man she tried to frame with a federal crime, prove that his civil rights were violated.

Puana’s civil attorney, Eric Seitz, said the trial confirmed that not only was Puana framed by the Kealohas and two Honolulu police officers but that considerable HPD resources were used to keep him under surveillance.

“My hope is the city and county will exercise some reason, which they don’t often do, and talk to us about settlement," said Seitz.

Puana is suing the Kealohas and the city for violations of his civil rights, including his 71 days in custody on charges trumped up by Katherine Kealoha.

That lawsuit could wind up costing city taxpayers millions of dollars, with stronger evidence coming in from the criminal trial.

“This is beyond a reasonable doubt. The civil stuff is just a preponderance. The burden here is much higher (here) than in civil case," said attorney Michael Green.

“It’s like O.J. Simpson ― not guilty in the murder but they nailed him in the civil case.”

But others disagreed.

“It can work the other way around too. You could be found guilty but later, for whatever reason, a civil jury might not believe that’s the case,” said attorney Victor Bakke.

The course of other lawsuits also could be affected, including one filed by the Kealohas against former City Ethics Commission Director Chuck Totto.

Totto was forced out of his job after he began investigating the couple.

“Obviously, I feel vindicated to a degree," said Totto. “I’m glad that in a sense, we were right But this is a horrible thing for the city to go through.”

Totto’s attorney said he doesn’t think the Kealohas will pursue that lawsuit anymore.

Less clear is whether the verdict could reverse a $600,000 judgement the Kealohas won against Puana and his mother Florence in state court.

Puana’s lawyer hopes an appeals courts will now throw that out.

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