Embattled Police Chief Louis Kealoha was placed on paid leave and is no longer involved in running the Honolulu Police Department while his bosses, the Honolulu Police Commission members, decide what to do next, police and commission officials said Tuesday.
Mayor Kirk Caldwell has urged the commission to take “decisive action” at its next meeting, Jan. 4, and not allow the current situation to drag on, acting Mayor Ron Amemiya said at a news conference that also was attended by Max Sword, the commission chairman, and acting Police Chief Cary Okimoto.
Kealoha, who turned in his badge and firearm, will be on leave for 30 days, pending the outcome of the commission’s meeting.
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Sword declined to comment on what options the commission will consider when it meets next month or to specifically say whether termination will be one of the options.
Kealoha’s attorney, Myles Breiner, said Monday night that his client had voluntarily placed himself on restricted duty after receiving a letter informing him that he is the target of a federal grand jury investigation.
Okimoto said at the news conference that four other officers, whom he would not name, had received target letters and have been reassigned to desk duty.
Kealoha is the only one of the five who is on paid leave, the officials said.
They said the decision for Kealoha to take leave and not be involved in running the department was made in part to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest, given that officers would still see Kealoha as the chief if he remained on the job.
Breiner said the letter to Kealoha was intended to intimidate his client.
“He’s done nothing wrong,” Breiner said.
The development comes after a retired police officer, Niall Silva, pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to falsifying documents and altering evidence in a court case connected to Kealoha and his wife, Katherine, a deputy prosecutor.
Silva, 52, a former criminal intelligence unit technician, is scheduled to be sentenced April 3 before U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway.
The plea by Silva, who appeared Friday before U.S. District Magistrate Kevin Chang, lends support to the assertion by Gerard Puana, uncle of Kealoha’s wife, that he was framed for the theft of the couple’s mailbox in June 2013.
Puana has alleged the theft case against him came three months after he filed suit against Katherine Kealoha about her handling of his mother’s assets.
The complaint brought by Michael G. Wheat, a San Diego-based special attorney for the U.S. attorney general, said that Silva and other co-conspirators helped to falsify records and present false testimony against Puana.
The complaint, filed Dec. 9 under court seal, does not name any of the alleged co-conspirators, but mentions that Silva was supervised in the criminal intelligence unit by a lieutenant and a captain who ultimately reported to the police chief.
The falsification of documents and false testimony occurred sometime between June 21, 2013, and June 2, 2016, according to the complaint.
The document says “Co-conspirator No. 1” falsely reported the theft of a mailbox in front of the residence.
In order to “conceal and alter evidence of the alleged theft,” co-conspirator No. 2, a police officer, retrieved the hard drive from the residence’s security camera before the theft was reported.
Silva and the second co-conspirator then falsely claimed they retrieved the hard drive after the theft was reported, and Silva testified to that effect at Puana’s trial, which ended in December 2014 in a mistrial.
Co-conspirator No. 1 is believed to be Katherine Kealoha, who earlier admitted she reported the mailbox stolen.
Puana filed a civil lawsuit Wednesday naming the chief, his wife, Katherine, and five other police officers for allegedly violating his constitutional rights in two criminal cases in 2011 and 2013.
In the civil lawsuit, he alleged Katherine Kealoha used her position as a Honolulu deputy prosecutor to keep him incarcerated for 72 days.