Lawyers for man framed by Kealohas seek former Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s testimony

Updated: Apr. 12, 2021 at 5:29 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Attorneys for the man framed by former high-ranking deputy city Prosecutor Katherine Kealoha want former Mayor Kirk Caldwell to testify under oath.

Eric Seitz, who represents Gerard Puana, said he wants to know what the Caldwell administration did to investigate former Chief Louis Kealoha in 2017, after he received a letter from federal authorities indicating he was a target of a criminal investigation.

Seitz said he also wants to know whether the city applied political pressure to former Honolulu Ethics Commission Director Chuck Totto, who was forced out after he began investigating the Kealohas.

“We want to look not only if there was a cover up but we want to look at how it was that such vast resources of the City and County could be utilized by the chief and his wife for their own private purposes,” said Seitz.

“We want to know what the mayor’s role was in getting the Police Commission to settle with Chief Kealoha at a time when we think they knew more than enough to resist doing that.”

Kealoha retired as Honolulu’s police chief after receiving the target letter, collecting a $250,000 payment in return for retiring,

The couple was convicted on federal corruption charges and Puana is suing the Kealohas and the city for violating his civil rights. He’s going after the city because several police officers were involved in the staged theft of the Kealoha’s mailbox.

The move comes as attorneys for the city and Puana have been in lengthy settlement talks. But those settlement talks ended last month with both sides millions of dollars apart.

Caldwell is traveling and could not be reached. His attorney, Lex Smith, declined comment and said he would leave it up to the city to respond.

City lawyers are fighting to keep Caldwell from testifying, saying:

“(There) is no factual basis to take former Mayor Caldwell’s deposition. Officials such as the mayor are not subject to being deposed just because they were in office at the time alleged misconduct took place,” said City Corporation Counsel Dana Viola.

Political analyst Colin Moore said that strategy might make sense from a legal standpoint but politically it does little to restore the public’s trust after such a highly publicized corruption scandal.

“It will certainly appear that they are seeking to brush this under the rug,” said Moore.

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