FBI agents served the Honolulu’s Prosecutor’s Office with a search warrant today as part of the ongoing federal corruption investigation involving the city’s outgoing police chief and a deputy prosecutor, officials said.
The move allowed the FBI to search servers at the office one day after a federal judge took possession of two work-related laptops belonging to Deputy Prosecutor Katherine Kealoha, according to her attorney, Myles Breiner. Kealoha and her husband, outgoing Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha, have been embroiled in a grand jury investigation into alleged conspiracy and corruption that centers around them and several police officers.
According to Breiner, the investigation’s special prosecutor, Michael Wheat, issued a subpoena Thursday for Katherine Kealoha to turn over two of her work laptops. However, Honolulu Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro and Breiner each objected, he said. Kaneshiro, Breiner said, worried that the laptops’ seizure could affect ongoing criminal investigations, and Breiner worried their seizure could violate attorney-client privilege.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Seabright then took the laptops into custody, Breiner told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Breiner said the FBI’s separate search warrant today for computer servers at the Prosecutor’s Office today could be a way to avoid at least the attorney-client privilege issues.
“It’s a hunting expedition. They’re looking for things,” Breiner said. “It’s a very broad-spectrum search warrant.”
FBI Special Agent Arnold Laanui issued a statement confirming that “special agents were conducting investigative activity at the Office of the Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney” on Richards Street today. Citing FBI policy regarding ongoing investigations, Laanui said the agency “will not be providing, at this time, any statements regarding the subjects of its investigation, identities of victims, or the purpose of today’s activity.
“Preserving the integrity of our investigation, as well as the integrity of the Prosecutor’s Office is a primary concern to the FBI. We wish to keep disruptions to their operations to a minimum,” he said.
In a brief written statement this afternoon, Kaneshiro said, “FBI agents served a search warrant at the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney this morning. This office fully cooperated with the agents and provided information requested in the warrant.”
The office offered no further information.
Kealoha, who last week agreed to retire, is still working out the details of his compensation package with the Police Commission. On Dec. 20, the chief placed himself on voluntary paid leave after the FBI sent him a “target letter” informing him that he is the focus of a criminal investigation.
The grand jury investigation stems from a family feud involving Katherine Kealoha’s uncle Gerald Puana. Puana was accused of stealing the mailbox in front of the Kealohas’ Kahala home in June 2013. Alex Silvert, Puana’s defense lawyer, accuses Chief Kealoha of purposely triggering the mistrial to avert a not-guilty verdict that would have undercut Katherine Kealoha’s standing in a civil case against Puana.
On Dec. 16, retired HPD officer Niall Silva pleaded guilty to conspiring with other police officers and Katherine Kealoha to frame Puana for the theft of the mailbox.