Honolulu Police Chief's testimony causes mistrial in federal, criminal case

Honolulu Police Chief's testimony causes mistrial in federal, criminal case
Published: Dec. 4, 2014 at 5:18 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 4, 2014 at 10:38 PM HST
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HPD Chief's Mailbox
HPD Chief's Mailbox
Gerard Puana
Gerard Puana

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - It was only in its second hour and on the second witness, when the federal trial for the man accused of stealing the mailbox of the Honolulu Police chief, abruptly ended.

"The chief blurted out... a rogue answer," says Alexander Silvert, the attorney for the defendant, "We were all shocked when he said it."

Chief Louis Kealoha was on the stand describing to the jury surveillance video taken from his Kahala home in June of last year. The grainy video shows a man taking the mailbox and driving off, a federal crime.

Kealoha identified the thief as Gerard Puana, the uncle of the chief's wife.

But the man on video looks much thinner than the defendant.

The prosecutor asked Kealoha about that, how the chief was able to compare the appearance of Puana because of the weight difference.

Kealoha responded by saying that he remembered Puana being that thin when he was arrested and convicted of a previous burglary.

Silvert slammed both hands on the table, Puana became angry because the statement wasn't true, and the Judge called for an immediate recess.

"I believe that he did it intentionally," says Silvert.

Puana was arrested for another burglary, but was never convicted.

"Very unexpected that the chief of police, that knows the rules of evidence, knows the rules of court, would make a comment like that," says Silvert.

This criminal case exposed a messy family battle between Puana and the Kealohas, a battle that involves a civil suit involving hundreds of thousands of dollars.

That civil case is set to start in the next few weeks and Silvert believes a verdict could have had a big impact.  He says if Puana was found, not-guilty of stealing the mailbox, it would negatively impact the Kealohas during the civil trial.  

"I believe he said (it) so that this case would be a mistrial, so it would be delayed, so that they could continue to use this evidence against my client in his civil case," Silvert says.

The retrial for the mailbox case has been rescheduled for late May.

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