A federal judge has continued a hearing to Thursday morning on whether the attorneys representing Louis and Katherine Kealoha should be removed from the couple’s high-profile public corruption case.
Hawaii Chief District Judge J. Michael Seabright scheduled a hearing on the separate motions to resume in his court Thursday.
One of the motions to remove two of the Kealohas three attorneys was filed by U.S. attorneys prosecuting the former police chief and his wife, the city’s deputy prosecutor. The other motion was filed by the Kealohas’ three attorneys themselves, who said the couple lack the financial means to fund a defense without court-appointed counsel.
Before Thursday’s hearing, the Kealohas are expected to file individual financial disclosure statements that will remain under seal.
The Kealohas’ attorneys said today that the couple are living only on Louis Kealoha’s pension and have a daughter in college. Kevin Sumida said his law firm has a mortgage on the Kealohas’ Hawaii Kai home worth up to $700,000 that’s intended to pay up to that amount of their defense.
Seabright said the couple’s home is roughly worth $1.24 million and has a $980,000 mortgage, a $90,000 home equity loan and the mortgage to Sumida’s firm.
The case against Louis and Katherine Kealoha has led to the indictments of the retired police chief, his wife and four other current or former Honolulu Police Department officers.
Myles Breiner has been handling Katherine Kealoha’s case while Gary Modafferi was recently retained by Louis Kealoha to fight the criminal charges against him. Sumida has been handling the civil cases involving the Kealohas.
“Defendants can no longer fund a defense,” a memorandum filed with the motion by the attorneys said. “Their assets have been effectively frozen by the federal government, and the terms of their bond prohibit them from even applying for a loan.”
The memorandum noted that federal prosecutors have estimated that the case will involve “a quarter of a million pages of evidence, some 500 witnesses and a trial consuming four months.”
The motion asks that the court appoint new attorneys for the Kealohas, and that those new attorneys come from out-of-state.
The case against the Kealohas “is of such magnitude and complexity that there are no other local attorneys available who are both qualified and not suffering from potential conflicts of interest,” the memorandum said.
The new attorneys would presumably be paid for by taxpayers.
Seabright this morning continued a hearing on a separate motion filed by U.S. attorneys demanding that Breiner and Sumida be disqualified from the case due to a slew of potential conflicts of interest.
Federal prosecutors, in their motion, said that the Kealohas have a constitutional right to “conflict-free counsel.”
Breiner and Sumida cannot represent the Kealohas, U.S. attorneys said in court documents, because “their continuing obligations ofloyalty and confidentiality towards both clients conflicts [sic] with their duty to provide K. Kealoha with a vigorous defense.”
On Friday, Breiner told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in a text message that “this motion reflects the length to which the government will go to remove any obstacles in pursuit of a conviction, including the Kealohas’ right to choice of counsel.”
Breiner recently relinquished his representation of Louis Kealoha in criminal matters to Modafferi but has continued to represent Katherine Kealoha. Sumida has continued as the legal representative for both Kealohas in civil matters.
The Kealohas, along with four current and former members of HPD’s Criminal Intelligence Unit, were charged in U.S. District Court on Oct. 20 with conspiring to frame Katherine Kealoha’s uncle, Gerard Puana, for the theft of the mailbox from their home, and then covering it up. The Kealohas, additionally, are accused of defrauding individuals and financial institutions of more than $1 million by, among other things, fabricating documents, misrepresenting facts, forging signatures, using aliases and stealing a police officer’s identity.
Amid the federal case swirling around him, Louis Kealoha retired earlier this year and was paid $250,000 under an agreement reached with the Honolulu Police Commission. He is supposed to return the money if convicted of a felony.
Katherine Kealoha is on leave from the Prosecutor’s Office.