HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Katherine Kealoha claimed in court documents obtained by Hawaii News Now on Thursday that her defense team had found the real Alison Lee Wong ― her alleged alias ― and that she’s owed a new trial because her court-appointed lawyer failed to do her job.
Kealoha says she is seeking a new trial because of the ‘ineffective’ job done by attorney Cynthia Kagiwada.
In a hearing Thursday afternoon, Judge J. Michael Seabright granted Kagiwada’s request to be removed from the case.
Kagiwada’s exact reasons for wanting to be excused were not disclosed, although she wrote in court filings that her relationship with Kealoha had broken down. She also cited a section of the law that hinted that her client wanted her to act unethically.
Kealoha appeared at Thursday’s hearing in leg shackles and a tan prison jumpsuit, which she showed off with a smile.
Witnesses said she threw kisses to her husband, former police Chief Louis Kealoha, who was also of conspiracy to obstruct justice, and made an effort to walk like a runway model in her new prison garb.
Jurors agreed that the Kealohas, along with two Honolulu police officers, had worked together to frame Katherine’s uncle Gerard Puana for the theft of the couple’s mailbox, which was a tactic to ruin his reputation after he and his mother accused Katherine of stealing from them.
Gerard Puana spoke exclusively to Hawaii News Now earlier this week, saying that he was please that the world ‘now knows the truth.’
The judge in the case will now have to appoint a new attorney for Kealoha, who will also be paid using federal taxpayers dollars.
In a lengthy declaration attached to the motion for a new trial, Kealoha listed many grievances with Kagiwada. But perhaps the most surprising was her claim that defense investigators had found Alison Lee Wong, who prosecutors convinced the jury was a completely made up alter-ego for Kealoha.
Kealoha wrote that despite finding Alison Lee Wong, Kagiwada refused to call her as a witness. She claimed Kagiwada ignored her suggestions and refused to consider evidence Kealoha urged her to use.
Kealoha’s other attorney, Earle Partington ― who was hired by Kealoha’s parents ― said Kagiwada wasn’t experienced enough to have taken the case in the first place.
“To me, the big question is, how on earth did an inexperienced lawyer get appointed to represent Katherine Kealoha? Our ethical rules state if a lawyer is not competent to take a case, the lawyer should decline it,” said Partington.
Kagiwada did not return a call seeking comment on Kealoha’s allegations.
The Alison Lee Wong claim was a surprise, considering that during the civil trial over the family financial dispute, Kealoha’s civil attorney claimed he had tried and failed to find her.
But Partington, who said he had not met the woman, said he’s been told that Wong is a real person, living in Kaneohe, who once worked for Kealoha ― but, he said, she never worked as a notary.
Prosecutors emphasized Wong was invented by Kealoha, who also ordered a notary stamp bearing Wong’s name which was used on forged documents. They argued that the creation of a false person was important evidence of the efforts she made in committing the fraud.
In her filings, Kealoha also complained that more should have been done to attack the credibility of both Florence and Gerard Puana, who denied stealing the mailbox.
Katherine Kealoha’s motion to overturn the verdict and hold a new trial will be heard and decided by Judge Seabright on another day. Experts say appeals based on blaming the attorney are common in the federal system and rarely work.