Judge says civil lawsuit against Katherine Kealoha was tainted with fraud

Updated: Sep. 13, 2019 at 4:50 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Disgraced former Deputy Prosecutor Katherine Kealoha has lost another major courtroom battle.

A state judge ruled Friday that a 2015 civil verdict ordering Kealoha’s relatives to pay her $658,000 was tainted by fraud.

“Here, the plaintiffs have presented evidence that has been clear and convincing that there have been misrepresentations and fraud,” said Circuit Judge James McWhinnie.

“It is especially egregious that the defendant Katherine Kealoha was an officer of the court.”

Gerard Puana, who was in court Friday, celebrated the ruling.

“This is a big deal. It’s a big weight off of my back and off our family’s back. We all know what went on in this civil trial and it shouldn’t have happened," he said.

The ruling does not immediately overturn the 2015 verdict. Puana’s attorneys must now ask an appellate court to order a new trial.

Attorneys for Florence Puana, Katherine Kealoha’s elderly grandmother, filed a motion last month asking for a new civil trial against Kealoha, who was convicted earlier this year in a massive public corruption trial.

In 2015, the Puanas had accused Kealoha of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from them, but a state court famously ruled in favor of Kealoha in the case and awarded her $658,000.

In their motion for a new civil trial, lawyers for the Puana family claimed that Kealoha was found guilty in the federal public corruption case because she committed fraud in state court in order to win the civil trial.

Federal prosecutors said Kealoha lied on the stand and used forged documents notarized by a fictitious person named Alison Lee Wong to win the case, and lawyers for the Puana family used evidence from the federal case their motion requesting a new trial.

Kealoha’s lawyer says the Puana’s should have raised these challenges years ago.

“Whether or not a witness lied on the stand is something that happens on a daily basis in trial. And if that is to have been found to have occurred in the case, you have one year within to raise that," said Kealoha’s attorney Kevin Sumida.

Normally, the statute of limitation for legal challenges like this is one year. But because the court was victim, the judge ruled that there is no limit.

Florence Puana has already paid some of the damages. To get the money back, she’s going after Kealoha’s attorneys and the city.

Earle Partington, one of Kealoha’s attorneys says his client will challenge the ruling, saying the judge issued an ‘advisory opinion’ which he is not supposed to do.

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