2 officers convicted in Kealoha scandal lose federal appeals
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Former Honolulu police officers Derek Hahn and Bobby Nguyen will remain in federal prison after losing their appeals.
Legal experts say the ruling doesn’t bode well for former city Prosecutor Katherine Kealoha’s bid to get out of prison.
The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on Friday ruled that there was “sufficient evidence” to convict Hahn and Nguyen and that U.S. District Judge Michael Seabright “did not err” when he sentenced them.
Hahn is serving three and a half years while Nguyen is serving four and a half years in prison for the mailbox conspiracy.
“Essentially what they’re saying is that the prosecution proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt in every aspect, and that the judge did not abuse his discretion,” said Ken Lawson of the University of Hawaii Law School.
The two claimed prosecutorial misconduct during the trial, but the higher court did not agree.
Both were convicted for helping stage the theft of former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha’s mailbox to frame a man for the crime.
That man ― Gerard Puana ― was in the middle of a civil dispute with the chief’s wife, former Honolulu Deputy Prosecutor Katherine Kealoha, who is Puana’s niece.
Given the breadth of the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, legal experts said any effort to overturn the Kealohas’ convictions for public corruption convictions will also fail.
“It deals with sufficiency of the evidence, and the appellate court said there was sufficient evidence, it deals with improper closing argument, which would apply to all defendants and the appellate court said that was fine as well,” said retired public defender Alexander Silvert, who represented Puana.
“What the signals is, if the Kealohas are given their right to appeal, they’re highly unlikely to succeed.”
Attorneys for Hahn and Nguyen had no immediate comment.
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