Opening statements were scheduled for Tuesday in the state civil trial of Katherine Kealoha, a deputy city prosecutor and wife of Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha.
Her uncle, Gerard Puana, and 95-year-old grandmother, Florence Puana, are suing Kealoha over approximately $150,000 left over from a reverse mortgage she arranged on her grandmother’s Mauna Lani Heights home and $70,000 the uncle claims he gave his niece for safekeeping and to place in an investment hui.
The family dispute spilled over into federal court after Kealoha accused her uncle of stealing her mailbox.
Gerard Puana went to trial last month on a charge of damaging a mailbox.
The government said it intended to prove that Puana stole the mailbox to retrieve bank records related to his state civil claim against Kealoha.
Puana’s criminal defense lawyer told jurors that the uncle did not steal the mailbox. First Federal Defender Alexander Silvert said Kealoha was claiming that the person recorded on surveillance video pulling the mailbox off its support post and driving off with it is Puana to discredit her uncle in the state civil case.
The uncle’s state civil lawyer said that by the time the mailbox was stolen, the Puanas already had the bank records they needed for their lawsuit against Kealoha.
Chief Kealoha caused a mistrial in the mailbox case when he testified that Puana had been arrested and convicted of an unrelated crime, even after the judge had just warned the federal prosecutor to stay away from any questions that might solicit testimony about the uncle’s criminal history.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence Tong said he did not solicit the chief’s comment about Puana’s criminal history. The judge and Silvert agreed.
Silvert accused the police chief of intentionally causing the mistrial to prevent a possible not guilty verdict from negatively affecting his wife’s position in the state civil case. He also said there had been misconduct on the part of persons at the Honolulu Police Department in the investigation of the mailbox theft and that there were false and fabricated evidence.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office had the case dismissed with no opportunity to bring it back after Silvert said he met with prosecutors and presented them the defense’s entire case. The U.S. Attorney’s Office also referred the case to the FBI.
Silvert said he met with the FBI last Wednesday.
In pretrial motions for the civil case last week, state Circuit Judge Virginia L. Crandall ruled that Kealoha’s lawyers cannot tell jurors about the mailbox theft. She is, however, allowing them to tell the jurors the same thing that Chief Kealoha said on the federal witness stand last month to cause the mistrial.