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Sentencing of Kealohas postponed as courts respond to COVID-19

  • CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / JUNE 27
                                Katherine and Louis Kealoha leave federal court after being found guilty of conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

    CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / JUNE 27

    Katherine and Louis Kealoha leave federal court after being found guilty of conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

On the eve of sentencing hearings for Katherine and Louis Kealoha, the U.S. District Court postponed the proceedings to a date “to be determined” — a move attributed to the state of emergency surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak.

Former Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Katherine Kea­loha, her husband, former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha, and former police officers Minh-Hung Nguyen and Derek Wayne Hahn were scheduled to appear in federal court today.

The four were convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice by a federal court jury in June. They were accused of public corruption by using their law enforcement positions to try to frame Katherine Kealoha’s uncle with stealing the couple’s mailbox in 2013.

The postponement of their case in federal court is just one of the impacts in the federal and state Judiciary associated with the COVID-19 outbreak and related social distancing measures.

The U.S. District Court announced Monday that it will deny entry to people who have been in China, Iran, Italy, Japan or South Korea; persons in close contact with someone who has been in those countries in the last 14 days; persons diagnosed with or in close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19; or persons who have been ordered to self-quarantine.

The state Judiciary also announced new restrictions on court proceedings Monday.

State Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald issued an order that in-person appearances for civil, family and, as much as possible, criminal matters will be limited, beginning today and continuing through April 30.

Individuals who are experiencing symptoms of a cough, fever or respiratory symptoms; who have traveled outside Hawaii in the last 14 days; or who have prolonged contact with a person who has or is suspected of having COVID-19 are prohibited from entering Judiciary facilities.

All ongoing trials will be postponed until after April 30. Civil trials and hearings will be postponed until after April 30, except proceedings on petitions for temporary restraining orders and other proceedings that the presiding judge deems urgent.

The chief judges of each circuit are instructed to devise circuit-specific plans to reduce in-person appearances, including remote proceedings; adjusting the form, venue or frequency of proceedings; or postponing in-person proceedings.

For self-represented litigants in district court civil cases, the postponement applies to small claims, landlord-tenant and civil traffic infractions.

In criminal cases, criminal trials, grand jury proceedings and hearings will be postponed until after April 30, except in initial appearances in felony cases, preliminary hearings for in-custody defendants in felony cases, arraignment and plea hearings or those the presiding judge deems urgent.

In lieu of postponing proceedings, individual courts have the discretion to allow motions to be argued by telephone or videoconferencing. Where in-person hearings must occur, courts are encouraged to stagger individual appearances to limit the number of people in the courtroom.

Family Court proceedings, except those that are urgent, will be postponed until after April 30. Specialty courts, including Drug Court, Mental Health Court and Veteran’s Treatment Court, will stagger participants’ appearances and make efforts to minimize the number of people in the courtroom.

Hearings at appellate courts scheduled for today to April 30 will be rescheduled or resolved without oral arguments.

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

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