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Katherine Kealoha got a 13-year sentence, but she’ll be released in 2030. Here’s why.

Updated: Dec. 30, 2020 at 5:47 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A federal judge sentenced Katherine Kealoha to 13 years last month, but the Bureau of Prisons has since set her release date at July 24, 2030.

The reason: “You get credit for all the time you were in jail,” said Alexander Silvert, a former federal public defender who triggered the FBI case against Kealoha.

Kealoha, once a high-ranking deputy city prosecutor, was detained and has been in the Federal Detention Center since June 28, 2019, the day after a jury found her guilty of obstruction and conspiracy.

Her husband Louis Kealoha, Honolulu’s former police chief, and two other police officers, Derek Hahn and Bobby Nguyen, were also convicted in a plot to frame a man for a crime he did not commit.

Only Katherine Kealoha was detained between the verdict and sentencing.

“So she gets that 17 months credit automatically,” said Silvert.

There is no parole in the federal system but Silvert said there is credit for good behavior, which could also be factored in. An inmate can get 54 days a year taken off the sentence as an incentive to be a model prisoner.

“As long as you don’t get into trouble,” said Ken Lawson, of the University of Hawaii law school, “When you add that up over ten years it’ll come out to 2030.”

Lawson served time in the federal system and said there are also a lot of classes that inmates can take to reduce their sentence even more. His 24-month sentence for drug crimes was reduced when he took an intense, in prison drug treatment class.

Kealoha has already completed a similar course while locked up.

“There are a lot of incentives that the government tries to give you with the goal in mind, go out there and this time make yourself better. Be useful to society and don’t come back,” Lawson said, adding t’s also likely Kealoha will actually be out of prison months earlier than the July 2030 scheduled date.

About six months before release, an inmate is often transferred back to their home state to a halfway house to prepare for release.

Silvert said a federal prisoner usually spends about 80% of their sentence behind bars.

The Bureau of Prisons has not reported which facility Kealoha will end up in to serve her time. COVID-19 outbreaks have delayed the moving of inmates.

Kealoha’s co-defendants are set to report to their designated facilities in April.

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