HONOLULU — Taxpayers will be funding attorneys to defend a former Honolulu police chief and his wife in a corruption case, a judge ruled Thursday.
Louis and Katherine Kealoha, accused of framing a relative, are eligible to receive court-appointed counsel at no cost, U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright said.
Katherine Kealoha bilked banks along with her 98-year-old grandmother, an uncle and two children whose trust accounts she oversaw to maintain the couple’s lavish lifestyle, U.S. prosecutors said.
Among other things, prosecutors say she spent money on Maserati car payments, Elton John concert tickets and a $92,000 brunch at a Waikiki resort when her husband was made police chief.
The Kealohas were arrested last month and released on bond after pleading not guilty.
Earlier this week, their current attorneys filed a motion saying they wanted to withdraw from the case and that the Kealohas can no longer afford to pay them.
Seabright asked the couple to fill out financial affidavits and he questioned them behind closed doors about information they provided.
Seabright said it would be unfair to air their financial details in public.
“It’s clear their debt exceeds their assets,” Seabright said after re-opening the courtroom.
Mortgage payments on the couple’s home in the affluent Honolulu neighborhood of Hawaii Kai eat up much of Louis Kealoha’s pension, Seabright said.
Kealoha agreed to retire from the police force after receiving notice he was a target of the federal corruption probe that led to his arrest.
If the house is sold and the couple no longer have the burden of those payments, Seabright said he’ll likely require the Kealohas to provide partial payment for their defense.
“This is a case that will require substantial expenditures” to defend, the judge said.
Seabright said he will contact attorneys on a list for indigent clients in federal court. Those lawyers agree to accept fees from the government that are less than what they could charge.
The Honolulu Federal Defender’s Office can’t represent the couple because it provided counsel for the man the Kealohas are accused of framing.