Legal experts weigh in on the developing case against the Kealohas

Legal experts weigh in on the developing case against the Kealohas

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The case against the Kealohas could turn into five separate cases, in a strategy that a federal judge will rule on next month.

Legal experts say it's a common strategy when there are multiple defendants, one that doesn't work as well when they're all charged with conspiracy.

Attorney Victor Bakke says the former police chief, Louis Kealoha, and his deputy prosecutor wife Katherine, are the main targets of the case.

Federal prosecutors accuse them of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from family, friends and banking institutions to fund a lavish lifestyle.

The other, four co-defendants: HPD Lieutenant Derek Hahn, Officers Bobby Nguyen and Danny Sellers, and former HPD Major Gordon Shiraishi are all accused of helping the Kealohas cover up their crimes.

But all are charged with crimes that include bank fraud, identity theft, and conspiracy, even though Bakke says it is unlikely the officers knew about the alleged financial crimes.

"You don't want to be anywhere near (the Kealohas) as a defendant because you're going to get smeared with whatever they're being accused of," says Bakke, who agrees with the attempt of the defendants to sever the case, or separate it into five. But he says the method would be time consuming — and costly for taxpayers.

Attorney Bill Harrison represents a former HPD officer who has already pleaded guilty in the case. Harrison says he is relieved that his client, Niall Silva, took the deal when he did last fall to avoid being wrapped up the conspiracy.

"Unfortunately, as a co-conspirator you may get dragged in," says Harrison, "Dirtied by those kinds of allegations even though you may not have been a participant ... The whole concept is that you all did it as a group and they're coming at you as a group."

The six defendants pleaded 'not guilty' to additional charges Thursday, after federal prosecutors filed a superseding indictment on March 22.

That new indictment added three counts to the already massive 20-count indictment from last October, using superseding indictments to pile on the charges is also a common practice in the federal system, giving prosecutors more leverage.

"They're not going to stop because, well 20 is enough," Bakke said.

Bakke says superseding indictments are a strategy to get defendants to turn witnesses and take plea deals, because the more charges are added, the longer the potential sentence.

"They file charges, and then if people don't plead and they start to exercise their right to trial, you'll almost always see a superseding indictment," Bakke said.

Louis Kealoha's attorney, Rustam Barbee, made it clear in statements to the media Thursday, that the remaining six defendants are sticking together and maintaining that they are 'not guilty'. "It's their position and we don't expect it to change that their going to continue with their 'not guilty' pleas no matter how many superseding indictments are filed by the government."

The Kealohas, once again, showed up holding hands as they walked toward federal court for the hearing Thursday.

Unlike the first time they entered pleas in October, the Kealohas did not resemble newlyweds leaving a church — they came sans lei and adoring family members.

Louis Kealoha told the media they are looking forward to their day in court.

The hearing on whether it will be one trial or five separate ones is scheduled for April 10, but motions have already been filed to postpone that hearing.

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