HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Citing an “irretrievable breakdown” in their relationship, and a state rule of professional conduct, court-appointed defense attorney Cynthia Kagiwada is seeking to withdraw as Katherine Kealoha’s counsel.
Kagiwada represented Kealoha in the so-called “mailbox trial," one of Hawaii’s biggest public corruption trials.
In a motion to withdraw as counsel Tuesday, Kagiwada said there “appears to be an irretrievable breakdown in the attorney-client relationship, which cannot be reconciled.”
Kagiwada added that the motion for withdrawal of counsel “and appointment of substitute counsel is made in the interest of justice.”
In her filing, Kagiwada cited specific rules in the professional code for Hawaii attorneys. They included a rule that allows an attorney to withdraw representation if a “a client insists upon taking action that the lawyer considers repugnant or with which the lawyer has a fundamental disagreement.”
Last week, Kealoha, her husband Louis ― the former police chief ― and two Honolulu officers were found guilty of conspiring to frame one of her relatives with a crime in a bid to discredit him.
The conspiracy came amid a family dispute over money Kealoha drained from their bank accounts.
Kagiwada was paid by taxpayers because Katherine Kealoha said she did not have enough money to fund her own defense.
Following the guilty verdict, a federal judge ordered Kealoha be detained pending her sentencing in October and two upcoming federal trials. She remains behind bars.
“This is blame the lawyer time,” said Hawaii News Now legal analyst Ken Lawson, who says convicted defendants always use that as a first step ahead of an appeal, “When they refuse to accept responsibility for their own conduct, it becomes time to blame the lawyer.”
Lawson finds it troubling that Kagiwada cites the professional conduct rules, “That’s a huge red flag."
Kagiwada does not provide any details on the action that may qualify as repugnant, Lawson says the Judge J. Michael Seabright could ask Kagiwada if the action is unethical or illegal, “She’s letting the judge know, I may not be telling you the specifics, but I’m letting you know, she’s trying to perpetrate something that’s not right.”
Kealoha does have co-counsel, Earle Partington, who is being paid for by Kealoha’s mother.
Partington dismisses the rule cited and says Kagiwada may just be unhappy that he was brought on late during the trial, “I suspect that I was brought in to the case, she doesn’t like it and she wants out.”
Partington said he is going to visit Kealoha soon to find out and he made it known that she has cancer again.
Partington denied that Kealoha is trying to play the system to gain sympathy. He says the detention center is working to get her treatment.
Prosecutors have said Kealoha has a “history of malingering” and criticized her for using medical issues to get out of depositions and important legal events that are not in her favor.