Prominent doctor connected to Kealoha scandal detained after conviction in drug trial

Hawaii Island physician Rudy Puana has been found guilty of 38 counts against him in a high-profile federal drug trial connected to the Kealoha scandal.
Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 5:31 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 20, 2022 at 5:47 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Prominent Hawaii Island physician Rudy Puana has been found guilty of 38 counts against him in a high-profile federal drug trial connected to the Kealoha scandal.

Jurors handed down the verdict before noon Wednesday, just a day after deliberations began. After hearing the verdict, Puana hugged and kissed his wife but otherwise showed little emotion.

He was then immediately detained until his sentencing in September.

Megan Kau, a former city prosecutor turned defense attorney, said the required minimum sentence that comes with these charges make defendants a flight risk.

“They can’t get probation and therefore they may be more likely to flee because they don’t want to do a prison sentence,” she said.

Puana faces a minimum of 10 years behind bars for the counts against him ― conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and fentanyl and distribution of the drugs without a legitimate medical purpose.

He also previously pleaded guilty to a firearms charge.

Prosecutors and his defense attorneys declined comment as they left the federal courthouse.

But in a statement issued after the conviction, U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman called abuse of prescription drugs “one of the most serious problems plaguing our communities.”

“The conviction of a pain doctor abusing his power and position to distribute highly addictive and dangerous oxycodone and fentanyl sends a strong message to any medical professional acting outside the regular course of practice and prescribing opioids without a legitimate medical need.”

Prosecutors said Puana, who is Katherine Kealoha’s brother, prescribed pain medication to his friends and family members to sell or trade for cocaine. Kealoha was among those wrapped up in the scheme.

The disgraced ex-city prosecutor is in prison for conspiracy and obstruction.


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In closing arguments, defense attorney F. Clinton Broden tried to discredit the government’s witnesses, calling Puana’s longtime friends who testified against him liars.

Broden said author Chris McKinney was telling fictional stories on the stand.

And he claimed Puana also didn’t know his friends Joshua and Elena Derego were planning on funding their kids’ private school education by allegedly selling the opioids he prescribed for pain.

Retired federal public defender Alexander Silvert said the defense was trying to convince jurors that Puana believed the patients needed those prescriptions. “There was very little dispute over the physical evidence,” Silvert said, adding it came down to the credibility of the witnesses.

“When that happens the jury simply has to decide who do they believe beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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