Kealoha victim says settlement talks with city collapsed after ‘slap in the face’ offers

Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 6:06 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Settlement talks between the Puana family and attorneys for the city have collapsed, leaving the victims of the Kealoha corruption scandal preparing for trial.

Gerard Puana said the attorneys initially offered $250,000.

“That ridiculous slap in the face,” Puana said, adding he was stunned at the offer since legal experts believe the case could be the most expensive in city history with a payout in the millions.

“People don’t understand. They have no concept of what I’ve been through and my mother has been through,” Puana said.

The Kealohas leave federal court after learning of their guilty verdicts (Image: Hawaii News Now)
The Kealohas leave federal court after learning of their guilty verdicts (Image: Hawaii News Now)

Puana’s niece, Katherine Kealoha, was a high-ranking deputy prosecutor and her husband, Louis Kealoha was the city’s police chief between 2009 and 2014 when the Kealohas stole more than half a million dollars from the family.

It resulted in Puana’s mother, Florence, losing her home.

[From the archives: 5 years after investigation into Kealohas began, former Honolulu power couple sentenced]

The Kealohas committed a series of crimes to cover up their theft, including having Puana arrested, jailed, and forced into rehab even though he was not an addict.

The crime that brought them down ― they framed him for stealing their mailbox.

Florence Puana with her son Gerard Puana
Florence Puana with her son Gerard Puana

Louis Kealoha also had Puana followed by dozens of Honolulu police officers.

Eric Seitz, attorney for the Puana family, said city attorneys are risking millions more of taxpayer dollars by refusing to continue settlement talks.

“They’re taking a very naive approach to this litigation,” he said. “This is a very unique case in which the level of corruption was higher than any case we’ve seen anywhere else.”

“A jury could give us $20 or 30 million dollars potentially,” Seitz added, “We could settle this case. We’re willing to come down significantly.”

Retired federal public defender Alexander Silvert agreed the city’s lawyers are not playing fair.

“Settle this case and compensate these people for what happened because there’s no doubt what happened,” he said.

Silvert represented Puana when he was being prosecuted for the fake mailbox theft.

Silvert said the city can put this painful chapter to rest by making a good faith settlement offer instead of dragging it out.

“That lack of compassion, lack of humanity to settle this case is what troubles me the most,” he said.

Corporation Counsel designate Dana Viola said the city has not ruled out future efforts to settle.

“The city engages in settlement talks so long as they are productive and can lead to reasonable resolution of the issues,” Viola said, in a statement.

But after withdrawing their offers, the office filed a motion in federal court asking a judge to throw out the case altogether.

“Therefore, because Louis is alleged to have acted contrary to federal law and established City policy, his actions did not represent City policy for the purposes of establishing municipal liability,” the motion read.

Seitz said this response shows the city is not willing to come back to the table.

Puana said he is prepared for yet another trial and said he is not going to give up, if that is what the city is trying to force.

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