Kealoha mailbox trial witness list: Who’s on, who’s missing

Always Investigating

The witness list is out in the corruption trial of the Kealohas and several Honolulu police officers. Who is on the long list is as telling as who is not named, as federal prosecutors reveal how big a role they plan to make of a notary that they say is a fictional alias Katherine Kealoha created.

It’s just over a week until the corruption and obstruction of justice trial begins, for former Honolulu police chief Louis Kealoha and his former deputy prosecutor wife, Katherine, along with three Honolulu police officers. An extensive witness list is out today.

“Normally the witness list is going to be extremely lengthy,” said University of Hawaii law school faculty Ken Lawson. “If you get to the middle of a trial and you think, well maybe I should have put a witness on the list I didn’t put there, you may not be able to call that witness.”

The witness list includes 148 people that the prosecution and defense could call, plus 10 custodians of records for banks, phone companies, corporations, state government, even Facebook. The most of any single affiliation on the list are Honolulu Police Department staff — 37 current and 7 retirees.

Just being listed doesn’t mean all will be called to the stand.

“You want to streamline your case because the jurors don’t want to be there forever either,” Lawson said, “so you don’t want to take a chance of getting a jury angry at you by calling witness after witness after witness over the same thing.”

This case centers on the alleged framing of Katherine’s uncle Gerard Puana for mailbox theft. Puana is listed as are several Puana family members. Former HPD officers Niall Silva and Daniel Sellers are listed, expected after each cut plea deals for their actions surrounding the mailbox case. Not listed: Jesse Ebersole, charged with lying to the feds about his romantic affair with Katherine, with rendezvous allegedly paid for using her grandmother Florence Puana’s reverse mortgage money.

“He may be called in the subsequent trials,” Lawson said. “His testimony may not be relevant for this trial at all. He may be called in the other trials dealing with the finances.”

The Kealohas have been charged in a separate financial fraud case; Katherine has been charged in a third federal case involving charges of drug distribution along with her brother Rudolph Puana, a Big Island pain doctor.

Former Honolulu Ethics Commission executive director Chuck Totto is listed, as is former HPD captain and Ethics investigator Leetha DeCaires, together among the earliest to flag suspicions of a mailbox frame job.

“So you may have the commission coming in saying, yes I did interview these individuals, here’s what they told me,” Lawson said.

Not on the witness list: Alison Lee Wong — Katherine Kealoha’s purported assistant and frequent notary on financial documents material to several cases.

“If Alison Lee Wong’s name is going to be prominent in this trial and the defense says she actually exists, somebody better produce her,” Lawson said.

The feds contend Wong is just an alias for Katherine Kealoha, and they said in a brief filed last week they’ll prove it, through a notary stamp shipped to Katherine’s state office when she headed the Office of Environmental Quality Control, an e-mail registered from a City & County of Honolulu computer, a Facebook page accessed on the same device that logs onto the pages of Katherine’s daughter and brother. The feds contend Katherine tried to convince others — what they call “implant memories” — that they’d met Alison.

“If you’re telling me as my client that she exists, even if I don’t believe you, I can’t just say it,” Lawson said, “so I’m in between a rock and a hard place. If you tell me as my client she exists, give me that address and I’ll subpoena her. But if Idon’t put her on the list am I admitting to the jury and to the judge she doesn’t exist? She’s a vital witness to this case, so I would want to call her if I need her. And if I don’t call her what is that saying?”

KHON2 reached out to Katherine Kealoha’s attorney for response about the Alison Lee Wong matter and the witness list, along with Louis Kealoha’s attorney for witness-list comment. Neither has yet replied.

Jury selection will begin on May 13 at the Blaisdell Center. Trial is expected to last at least four weeks.

See the complete witness list here.

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