HONOLULU — An ex-Honolulu prosecutor testified Thursday that his former supervisor assigned him her uncle’s criminal case without telling them they were related and at odds over money.
William Awong’s supervisor was Katherine Kealoha, who is on trial with her husband Louis Kealoha, a now-retired police chief. The Kealohas abused their power and framed her uncle for a mailbox theft in an attempt to discredit him in a financial dispute and to keep him from revealing fraud that financed the couple’s lavish lifestyle, U.S. prosecutors say.
In 2013, Katherine Kealoha asked Awong to file a motion seeking to restore a conviction against Gerard Puana for entering a neighbor’s home in 2011. He had pleaded no contest in an arrangement that allowed him to keep the conviction off his record.
In making the request, Katherine Kealoha didn’t disclose that Puana was her uncle, that he was suing her over money he said she stole from him and that the Kealohas accused him of stealing their home mailbox, Awong said.
Puana and his now-99-year-old mother — Katherine Kealoha’s grandmother — filed a lawsuit claiming Katherine Kealoha stole money from them in a reverse mortgage scheme.
At first Awong thought Puana was her “Hawaii uncle, where everybody is somebody’s uncle,” he said, but later learned they were blood relatives.
Awong said if he knew about Puana’s lawsuit against his niece and the mailbox theft allegation, it would have been a potential conflict of interest.
Under questioning by Katherine Kealoha’s defense attorney, Cynthia Kagiwada, Awong said that before filing the motion, he researched it and believed he had a legal basis for doing so.
The Kealohas are on trial with current and former officers in what has been described as Hawaii’s biggest corruption case.
Jurors earlier this week heard from a state deputy sheriff who said that as a favor to Katherine Kealoha, he arranged for private meetings with her and her jailed uncle. Deputy Sherriff Thomas Cayetano said he brought Puana to Kealoha at a courthouse even though Puana didn’t have a court meeting scheduled.
There was also testimony from several of her relatives, including an aunt who said she was angry when she learned Katherine Kealoha took out a reverse mortgage on her mother’s home but that she loves her niece.
This story corrects the year that Katherine Kealoha asked William Awong to file a motion in her uncle’s case. It was in 2013, not 2014.