Could the arrests of former police chief Louis Kealoha and his deputy prosecutor wife, Katherine, cast a shadow on the criminal cases she was handling?
A grand jury indicted the couple for obstruction of justice and bank fraud. The prosecutor’s office has put Katherine Kealoha on unpaid leave.
A spokesman says she’s been with the Career Criminal Unit since 2011, dealing mostly with repeat offenders who are either on probation or on parole.
KHON2 spoke with former prosecutor Peter Carlisle. Kealoha also worked for him briefly when he was in that office.
He says defense attorneys will take advantage of this and try to get their cases dismissed, and he’s worried that other cases from the Honolulu prosecutor’s office could be in jeopardy.
“This is pretty much brand-new territory. I can’t recall any disgrace of a prosecutor’s office and members of that office that even comes close to reaching this in my history here in the state of Hawaii,” Carlisle said.
He adds that the indictment of Katherine Kealoha could have some far-reaching effects in the criminal justice system, and he believes that it’s not just her cases that could be affected.
“The defense attorneys are going to have a field day with this. The courts, heaven only knows what’s going to happen over there,” Carlisle said.
Katherine Kealoha has not been convicted, but Carlisle says an indictment shows probable cause.
“The defense attorneys will say then because there’s probable cause and then what?” KHON2 asked.
“Then (they’ll say), ‘What we’re going to do is we’re going to analyze everything she did and every single case that she touched, and we want to get that in discovery. We want to get this information. We want to have it so we can use it for our clients’ advantage,'” said Carlisle.
We reached out to the prosecutor’s office and asked for an on-camera interview with Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro. He declined. Instead, a spokesman sent us a statement that said: “This office will respond to any challenges in court.”
Carlisle says this situation could have been prevented if Kaneshiro took action when the federal investigation started.
“So you would have fired her many years ago?” KHON2 asked Carlisle.
“I would have told her, you’re leaving now. I would have given her that option to resign, but if she refused in any shape or fashion, I would have fired her in a heartbeat,” Carlisle said.
KHON2 also asked the prosecutor’s office how many cases Katherine Kealoha handled with the Career Criminal Unit.
A spokesman couldn’t give an exact number but he says it’s in the dozens.