Kealohas to get taxpayer-funded attorneys in public corruption case
HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - Former Police Chief Louis Kealoha and his deputy prosecutor wife will get taxpayer-funded attorneys to battle charges in a public corruption case.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Seabright granted the motion Thursday after reviewing their financial information.
In court Thursday, Seabright found that the Kealohas' mortgage and other debts exceed their assets. He said that the case would be lengthy and expensive and there was no way that they could afford to pay for lawyers themselves.
The decision means that the court will appoint new lawyers at taxpayers' expense.
If the Kealohas sell their Hawaii Kai home or come into money some other way the federal government could get partially reimbursed.
The decision also means that the lawyers currently representing the Kealohas are leaving the case. That decision led to the federal prosecutor dropping his request they be disqualified for potential conflicts of interest.
The Kealohas are fighting a a 20-count federal indictment, battling charges of bank fraud, identity theft, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct.
The courts hope to find them new attorneys by next week.
The couple had asked for mainland attorneys, a request that Judge Seabright denied. Instead attorneys will be chosen through the Criminal Justice Act list, a list of attorneys who agree to defend people at a government rate of about $125 an hour. Private attorneys often charge three times that amount.
The court will screen them to make sure they do not have conflicts of interest with the Kealohas' conspiracy case. One issue, finding an Oahu attorney who has not represented a witness, or defendant, or hasn't sued the Kealohas on behalf of other clients.
The chosen lawyers can also refuse to represent them.
The current legal team of Myles Breiner, Kevin Sumida, and Gary Modafferi will be excused after the new attorneys are hired.
Once a law enforcement power couple, driving luxury cars and owning multiple homes, the Kealohas are now pleading poverty. "The Kealohas don't have the ability to retain private counsel to defend themselves," said Breiner on Wednesday.
The team had asked that they be allowed to withdraw from the case earlier this week after a long meeting with all the parties involved and coming to the conclusion that the Kealohas cannot afford them.
Federal prosecutors were already trying to disqualify Sumida and Breiner from defending the Kealohas, saying the two attorneys have conflicts of interest. Of particular concern: Breiner for suing the Kealohas on behalf of other clients who claimed police brutality or false prosecution.
Legal experts saw the attorneys' request to withdraw as a way to quit before they were fired.
"I'm disappointed," Breiner told the media as he left the courthouse Wednesday. Breiner had been the first attorney hired last year when the Kealohas were made aware of the FBI investigation. "I've been working on the case a long time."
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