KEALOHA TRIAL: Week 1 comes to an end

Local News
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Day 3

10:44 a.m Next witness is Capt. David Chang of HPD. He took over as head of the Criminal Intelligence Unit in 2017. He testified that in January 2018, the FBI asked him to search for records pertaining to Gerard Puana. Chang said he found boxes of them in what’s known as “the burn pile,” a collection of records that need to be destroyed or shredded.

10:05 a.m. Day 3 of the Kealoha trial and first witness is Nalei Sooto who was an HPD officer sent to the house after the mailbox was reported stolen. He said Bobby Nguyen showed him the surveillance footage and Sooto said it was too grainy and could not identify the person in the video.

During cross examination Sooto said that in 2017, he was working in Seattle and an FBI agent asked him to look at the video again because there was a rumor that the man in the video was him. He said the FBI agent was kind of kidding about it but after reviewing video again they determined it wasn’t him and still don’t know who it is.

Sooto also referred to the Criminal Intelligence Unit as the secret police because he didn’t really know what the unit did.

Sooto testified that he and his partner arrested Puana for the mailbox theft. He said that Puana was driving a white sedan. Keep in mind that the car in the video is described as a white sedan. But later on prosecutors showed him the report that shows that Puana was driving a silver Pontiac.

DAY 2 

3:59 p.m. The next witness is Det. Michael Garcia, a certified appraiser for HPD. He testified that the mailbox stolen was worth $375, which classifies the theft as a felony because it was more than $300.

2:51 p.m. The next witness is Dru Akagi, who was a homicide detective during the time of the mailbox theft. When asked for his reaction to when he and his partner were assigned to the case he said, “Why us”?

He was also assigned to a burglary case at the Kealoha residence days after the mailbox incident. Katherine Kealoha’s car was damaged in the garage. Akagi testified that both Kealohas told him that they suspect it was Gerard Puana. When Akagi reviewed the security footage he said he saw no evidence that Puana was in the property.

Akagi also testified that when he and Katherine reviewed the video of the mailbox theft she did not hesitate in saying the man in the video is Puana.

1:27 p.m. Next witness in the Kealoha trial is a retired mail carrier who worked the route where the Kealohas lived. Prosecutors asked him if he was ever concerned with mailbox coming off the post when he put mail in. He said no. 

This is apparently in reference to the surveillance video showing the man taking mailbox off with ease in seconds. Prosecutors say it was rigged to come off easily to frame Gerard Puana.

11:47 a.m. Next witness for prosecutors is Charlotte Malott older sister of Gerard Puana. She said the man in surveillance video of man taking the mailbox is not Puana. When asked of her immediate reaction to the video she said, “That it wasn’t him.”

She said that his neck is longer. “My brother did not have a neck.” She added that her brother usually did not wear a hat. The man in the video wore a baseball cap.

10:49 a.m. Day two of the kealoha trial and U.S. Postal Inspector Brian Shaughnessy was back on the stand. Prosecutors again showed surveillance footage of a man in a baseball cap taking the mailbox with ease. During opening statements they said the mailbox was already rigged to be taken easily.
During cross examination the defense made a point that it did take some force to take the mailbox off its post.

Shaughnessy also testified for prosecutors that Katherine Kealoha told him that she thinks it was Gerard Puana in the video because she recognized the same clothes he wore a couple of days before the theft. Shaughnessy said co-defendant Bobby Nguyen identified it was Puana because he walked the same way.

The defense tried to make a point that when Puana was arrested he already knew it was about the mailbox so it must have been him. But prosecutors objected saying it was hearsay so it’s not clear if that point was made.

The defense also asked Shaughnessy if the man in the video bore a resemblance to Puana. Shaughnessy said, “at the time I did believe that.”


3:33 p.m. First witness for prosecutors is the police officer who responded to the 911 call by Katherine Kealoha reporting the mailbox stolen. He talked about discussing the value of the mailbox and explaining to her that if it was more than $300 it would be a felony theft case. Kealoha then said it was valued at $380.

3:03 p.m. The attorneys for the three CIU officers say their clients had no motive to frame Puana. They were just investigating him because it was their job. They had to gather intelligence because they felt that the chief and his family were in danger. Opening statements are done. Next up, first witness for prosecutors.

3:00 p.m. Rustam Barbee attorney for Louis Kealoha tells jury that there have been other incidents at the Kealoha residence before mailbox theft. That’s why the elite Criminal Intelligence Unit was investigating the case. Barbee says Gerard Puana has jumped over the fence of the Kealoha residence startling the family so that’s why CIU officers had been tailing him. Not because they were framing him for mailbox theft.

Barbee also points out that why is it that after nearly six years after the theft, prosecutors still have no evidence of who took the mailbox if it wasn’t Puana?

2:00 p.m. Short opening from Kagiwada says the money problems within Kealohas were all a big misunderstanding. Says Katherine had relationships with defendants but prosecutors won’t be able to prove that they conspired to frame Gerard Puana. Next up Rustam Barbee representing Louis Kealoha

1:45 p.m. The opening statements have resumed for the Kealoha trial. The defense is now presenting its case to the jury. First up is Cynthia Kagiwada representing Katherine Kealoha.

11:00 a.m. In the opening statements for the Kealoha trial, Federal prosecutor Michael Wheat explains to jurors that Katherine Kealoha framed her uncle Gerard Puana for stealing the Kealohas’ mailbox to discredit him. Puana and his mother had filed a civil lawsuit against Kealoha over money that belonged to her grandmother Florence Puana.

Wheat talks about how she conspired with other police officers, even tailing Puana for days, and how a hard drive with surveillance footage was edited to make it look like Gerard Puana took the mailbox.

10:35 a.m. A jury has been selected in the Kealoha trial, 5 women and 7 men. The alternates are one woman and 4 men.

The corruption case of former Police Chief Louis Kealoha and former Deputy Prosecutor Katherine Kealoha begins Wednesday. We will provide the latest coverage here.

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