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Judge Exceeds Guidelines in Sentencing Kealohas For Corruption

November 30, 2020, 5:27 PM HST
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Two central figures in perhaps the most prominent corruption case in Hawai‘i history were sentenced Monday, as one of the final chapters in the years-long saga was written without sympathy by a federal judge.

US District Court Judge Michael Seabright sentenced former Honolulu Deputy Prosecutor Katherine Kealoha to 13 years in prison after a jury found her guilty in 2019 of conspiracy and obstruction. Her husband and former Honolulu Police Chief, Louis Kealoha, well spend seven years behind bars for his associated crimes. They were ordered to pay a combined $700,000 in restitution to those they victimized.

Both sentences exceeded federal guidelines for the crimes of which the Kealohas were convicted in what has been regarded as a message from Judge Seabright, who spoke of the damage the couple inflicted upon the public trust by eroding faith in its crucial institutions.

“The breadth of this criminal conduct is astonishing,” the Judge said to Louis Kealoha.

The couple was tried and convicted of framing Katherine Kealoha’s uncle, Gerard Puana, for the crime of stealing the couple’s mailbox in an attempt to discredit him, as they feared Puana would shed light on financial crimes they undertook for personal gain.

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Katherine Kealoha apologized to her uncle Monday, along with her other victims. Puana said he had “so much further to go” before forgiving his niece, who stole substantial funds from Puana’s mother as part of her criminal activity before framing him in an effort to cover it up.

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“You framed your uncle for a crime he never committed,” Judge Seabright said directly to Katherine Kealoha during the explanation of her strict sentencing.

“…the corruption was able to flourish given Louis’ position as the chief of police and Katherine’s position as a high-ranking prosecuting attorney,” the Judge continued later. “They prized self-indulgence and their lifestyle (above all).”

Two former Honolulu Police Department officers, Derek Hahn and Bobby Nguyen, were also convicted of crimes as part of the investigation. They will each face sentencing on Tuesday, Dec. 1.

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Sentencing in this case had originally been slated for March 2020 but was postponed due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

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