Convicted ex-prosecutor wants phone hearings during pandemic

Convicted ex-prosecutor wants phone hearings during pandemic
Katherine Kealoha walks into the federal courthouse for a hearing. (Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (AP) — A former high-ranking Honolulu prosecutor who is in jail while awaiting sentencing for a conspiracy conviction in Hawaii’s largest corruption case wants to participate in hearings for a lawsuit her uncle filed against her by telephone because of the pandemic.

Katherine Kealoha’s uncle, Gerard Puana, is suing her because she framed him for stealing a mailbox at the home she shared with her now-estranged, retired police chief husband. The framing was central to a criminal trial against Katherine and Louis Kealoha, where a jury convicted them of conspiracy in a plot to frame Puana to keep him from revealing fraud that financed their lavish lifestyle.

In a neatly handwritten letter to the judge and filed in court Monday, she also asked for access to hard drives for her civil, ethics and criminal cases because the paper files are too voluminous for her cell at the Honolulu Federal Detention Center.

“Other inmates have been allowed the same accessibility to discovery materials and other legal documents, with approval by the court,” she wrote.

Her letter also said that an amended complaint in the case arrived in the regular mail instead of legal mail and is missing pages 13 and 14. She asked for more time to answer the complaint.

The complaint was amended in September to include a trustee for her grandmother’s trust. Her grandmother, Florence Puana, was suing Kealoha with the uncle over a reverse mortgage scheme on her home involving the mailbox Gerard Puana was framed for stealing.

The grandmother died in February. She was 100.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Wes Reber Porter ordered that the court clerk’s office mail Kealoha a copy of the amended complaint, but he denied her request for hard-drive access.

Porter noted that the case is currently on hold and that once it resumes, Kealoha may renew her request through a formal motion.

Because the case is on hold, her request for more time to respond is moot, Porter said.

An attorney for the Puanas declined to comment on Kealoha’s letter.

Her letter also says she hasn’t been able to communicate with her lawyer in the lawsuit, Kevin Sumida, and isn’t sure he’s still representing her and her husband, who filed for divorce last year. Sumida didn’t immediately return a message from The Associated Press.

Porter’s order also directed the clerk’s office to mail Kealoha a copy of Sumida’s motion to withdraw as attorney for the Kealohas.

“Lastly, may I please participate in the case proceedings via telephone conference so I do not have to be transported to court during the coronavirus pandemic?” she wrote. “Thank you for your consideration in these matters.”

The judge granted her request to appear for hearings before him by telephone. But Porter noted that if she has hearings before another judge she must make another request.

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