EXCLUSIVE: Surveillance video offers key piece of evidence in HPD chief's mailbox theft case
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The surveillance video shows the entire theft took only about 30 seconds.
It's grainy, dark, and shows the outline of a man wearing shorts, a long-sleeved shirt, and a baseball cap taking apart the mailbox at Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha's Kahala home in June of 2013. The man cradles it under his arm and puts it in the backseat of a white sedan before driving off.
The video was a key piece of evidence in the mailbox theft trial against the uncle of Kealoha's wife, Gerard Puana.
But is Puana the same man seen in this video obtained by Hawaii News Now from the U.S. Attorney's Office?
"First of all, it's almost impossible to identify anybody in the video, much less that it's my client," says Defense Attorney Alexander Silvert, "And then if you look at my client and the body build compared to the person in the video it's clearly not him." And Silvert says, it's not Puana's car. He drives a sports car.
While on the stand, Kealoha, the star witness in the case, insisted it was Puana, based on his walk, his dress, and years of dealing with him.
The two sides are involved in a messy civil dispute over hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the police chief believes Puana stole the mailbox to obtain documents.
Court transcripts from the trial detail Kealoha's testimony on day one:
Prosecutor: "Are you able to compare the way the defendant appeared back at the time of the incident, June of 2013, to the present?"
Kealoha: "Well, he's picked up a lot of weight since that time. And I -- how he looks in this video is how he looked when he was charged and convicted for breaking into his neighbor's house.'
Silvert slammed his hands on the table and said, "Your Honor."
Soon after, U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi ruled for a mistrial.
Judge: "...the court concludes that I have no choice but to grant the defendant's request for a mistrial, instead of instructing the jury to disregard Chief Kealoha's testimony and giving a strong curative instruction."
The case was later thrown out with prejudice, so charges cannot be filed again against Puana.
The FBI is now investigating both the Chief and HPD's handling of the case.
Silvert meets with FBI investigators Wednesday,
"I'm interested in presenting evidence that I believe amounts to either civil rights violations or obstruction of justice type of charges," Silvert says.
The civil trial involving the Kealohas and Puana could start as early as this week but the video or details of the theft will not be included.
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