HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - How quickly the tables have turned in the mailbox theft case involving Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha and his wife.
Two weeks ago, the chief was one of the star witnesses for the U.S. Attorney's Office, testifying that his wife's uncle Gerard Puana, stole the mailbox from their Kahala home.
But things changed dramatically after the chief took the stand, just hours after the trial started. The chief blurted out a statement about Puana's previous arrest for burglary. That caused a mistrial and the defense saw the delay as a chance to raise questions about HPD's handling of the investigation.
"Because of the mistrial, I felt that it was the right opportunity and time to discuss the matter openly with the U.S. Attorney's Office," says Alexander Silvert, Puana's attorney, "We put our faith and trust that they would hear us."
They did. On Tuesday, the office filed a motion to dismiss the case with prejudice. A motion a federal judge quickly signed.
"This is the first time I've ever seen this happened," say legal expert Ken Lawson, a University of Hawaii law professor, "The prosecution... not just dismissed it, but dismissed it with prejudice. And 'with prejudice' means not only are we dismissing your case, but we're never bringing it back."
Lawson is not involved with this federal trial, but has worked many federal cases in various states.
"There's cause for great concern," he says, "If I'm the chief of police, I've got a lawyer now."
The U.S. Attorney's office issued this statement to Hawaii News Now:
"We reached the decision to dismiss the charge in the Puana case after a review of all the information now available to us."
Some of that information, includes evidence that the defense was never told about until after the trial started.
Not only did the U.S. Attorney's office turn against their own witnesses, they requested the FBI to investigate the Honolulu Police Department's handling of the mailbox theft. Alexander Silvert said from the beginning that his client had been set up.
Puana and the Kealohas were already involved in a messy civil dispute involving hundreds of thousands of dollars. Puana says Mrs. Kealoha spent family money that didn't belong to her. And Puana's attorney says the mailbox accusation was retaliation for the civil suit.