Kealoha trial jurors are shown a mailbox and more surveillance video
Prosecutors in the federal conspiracy trial of Louis and Katherine Kealoha showed the jury Thursday an actual mailbox and more surveillance video of a person taking the Kealohas’ mailbox.
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Prosecutors in the federal conspiracy trial of retired Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha and his former deputy prosecutor wife, Katherine Kealoha, showed the jury Thursday an actual mailbox and more surveillance video of a person taking the Kealohas’ mailbox.
The Kealohas’ mailbox is at the center of the government’s claim that the former chief, his wife and three former and current Honolulu police officers staged the theft of it and framed a Kealoha relative to discredit the relative, who was involved in a dispute over money with Katherine Kealoha.
Louis and Katherine Kealoha, Lt. Derek Wayne Hahn, officer Minh-Hung “Bobby” Nguyen and retired Maj. Gordon Shiraishi face maximum five-year prison terms for each charge accusing them of conspiring to defraud the United States and lying to investigators.
The mailbox the jurors saw in court Thursday is of the same make and model as the one Katherine Kealoha
reported stolen from her and her husband’s Kahala home in June 2013. She described it for a Honolulu Police Department appraiser as a Gaines Classic Locking Mailbox with Pedestal Post in white satin and nickel finish, with an address plaque and optional security lock. She said the mailbox and post cost $544 when she bought them in 2005; the satin and nickel finish cost an extra $43; the address plaque, $39; and the optional lock, $30.
The Kealohas’ actual mailbox was never recovered.
The government, however, showed jurors a Google Maps image of a mailbox in front of the Kahala home that was recorded before the alleged theft. The Google Maps mailbox looks different from the one the jurors saw in court.
Special Prosecutor Michael Wheat said in the trial’s opening statements Wednesday that the Kealohas’ actual mailbox was a different, cheaper make and model. He said Katherine Kealoha inflated the value of her mailbox so the theft would be charged as a felony punishable by up to five years in prison under state law.
The case was never prosecuted in state court because detective Dru Akagi, one of two HPD homicide detectives who were assigned the case, testified Thursday that he handed over the case to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service to prosecute as a federal crime.
U.S. Postal Inspector Brian Shaughnessy testified that Kealoha sent him an email telling him how important the case was to her family and that she felt federal authorities were not taking it seriously. The U.S. Attorney charged Katherine Kealoha’s uncle, Gerard Puana, with destruction of a letterbox, a crime punishable by up to three years in prison, regardless of the mailbox’s value.
Shaughnessy said Katherine Kealoha and Nguyen told him that they recognized the person in the surveillance video as Puana, based on his clothing, build and gait. He said Nguyen described Puana’s walk as a “strut” and that Kealoha described it as a “cocky stride.” Shaughnessy said Kealoha also told him that Puana had on the same shorts in the video that she saw him wearing two days earlier.
In Puana’s December 2014 trial, Louis Kealoha also identified the person in the video as Puana, based on the thief’s clothing and “weightlifter’s” walk.
Puana’s sister Charlotte Malott testified Thursday that the person in the video looks younger, has a smaller build and a longer neck, and walks with more bounce in his step than her brother.
The mailbox theft trial ended in a mistrial when Louis Kealoha presented improper testimony to the jury.
Shaughnessy said that a month later he received a package in the mail containing a stainless steel water bottle and premium cookies, and an email from Katherine Kealoha thanking him for his assistance. He said he sent Kealoha a letter and a money order for $67, the approximate value of the water bottle and cookies.