HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - As Honolulu’s former chief of police ― and his ex-deputy prosecutor wife ― await sentencing on corruption, financial fraud and other charges, some are urging a judge to consider Louis Kealoha’s service when determining how long he should spend behind bars.
A number of Kealoha’s friends and former colleagues have written letters to federal Judge J. Michael Seabright to serve as character witnesses or to ask for leniency. The statements, recently made public, have a similar theme: They say Katherine Kealoha was the mastermind of the schemes the couple were convicted of, and that Louis Kealoha’s three decades of service should count for something.
Marie McCauley, Kealoha’s former deputy chief at HPD, said Kealoha “worked tirelessly” as chief. McCauley was a grand jury witness ahead of the Kealohas’ indictment.
“I honestly don’t know what Chief Kealoha knew or didn’t know about the events for which he stood trial,” she wrote. “What I do know, however, is that he is a loving father.”
Retired police Maj. Andrew Lum said it was “difficult for me to accept” Kealoha’s conviction.
“I know as the chief he was not corrupt. I would have seen it,” Lum wrote.
“This doesn’t change the fact that he was convicted of a felony casting a different perspective on his character. Despite his conviction, I believe he is still a man of good character.”
Rualani Simpson, Kealoha’s brother-in-law, said that the ex-police chief “is a dedicated family man."
“In the last few weeks I helped Louis take many of his own things to the homeless shelter to give to people in need,” Simpson wrote. “While at the shelter, he asked the staff if there was something he could help with. He is so very generous with his time, talents and treasures to help others.”
Former police Sergeant Michael Cusumano wrote, “It’s not a stretch to say he was one of my biggest influences throughout my 29 year career in HPD.”
Cusumano was one of two officers picked by Kealoha for the title of Sergeant of the Year in 2014, one year after he was following Gerard Puana, the relative who the Kealohas framed for the theft of their mailbox.
Federal prosecutors had pictures of Cusumano in his subsidized HPD vehicle tailing Puana in the days after the staged crime.
The awards selection committee actually nominated Sergeant Dan Nakasato for the award, but the committee was overruled by Kealoha and McCauley who chose Cusumano and John Haina instead.
Kealoha and his wife both pleaded guilty last week in federal court in connection with a financial fraud case, while Katherine Kealoha also pleaded guilty to covering up knowledge of a drug ring involving her brother.
In June, the Kealohas were convicted of conspiracy and obstruction along with two police officers, for framing Puana for the crime in a bid to discredit him amid a family dispute over money she stole.
Sentencing for the Kealohas is expected to be set for next year.
In the meantime, Louis Kealoha remains free on bond while his wife is behind bars. The two are also getting a divorce.
After pleading guilty to bank fraud Tuesday, Kealoha told reporters that he was sorry for what he’d done ― but didn’t elaborate on his attorney’s claims that he’d been unwittingly pulled into criminal schemes by his wife.
“I’m not even thinking about myself right now. I’m thinking about the negative impact that all of this had on the community, the police department, and family and friends,” Kealoha said.
“All I know is that I’m going to do my best to redeem myself and... I’m sorry,” Kealoha said as he choked back tears.
Katherine Kealoha hasn’t apologized, but in a handwritten note released by her attorney she said was taking responsibility for her actions and hoped "that the court and the community will see that Louis had no part in my criminal conduct.”
It’s not clear how long the Kealohas will spend behind bars, but legal experts say Louis Kealoha could spend about nine to eleven years in prison while Katherine Kealoha is expected to get a heftier sentence.
The stack of support letters includes some that were written by officers years ago, way before the federal investigation into public corruption was launched. It’s not clear if those officers approved their writing from then to be included and if they still would offer their support now.
One letter, signed by former FBI director, Robert Mueller, is from 2008 when Kealoha was a Captain and selected to attend the FBI academy.
READ THE LETTERS: