Honolulu Chief of Police Louis Kealoha and his wife, Katherine, a deputy prosecutor, have been under a cloud of suspicion for more than a year.
A family feud led to a civil lawsuit, that they won. But a federal criminal case brought against an uncle ended in a mistrial, allegations of ethical lapses, and now there’s a federal investigation and grand jury looking into corruption.
Until now, the Kealohas have stayed quiet about ethics and federal cases. Now, they’re speaking out for the first time since that federal investigation began, and telling Always Investigating that they’ve done nothing wrong.
They say the controversies, accusations, and talk about what’s supposed to be a secret grand jury is too much to ignore, and they want to set the record straight.
GM: We’re told that the special prosecutor is looking at criminal allegations like corruption, civil rights violations, obstruction, honest services fraud, how do you overcome that?
LK: First of all, we were never formally informed there was an investigation. No legitimate source has come out and told us that. All we know is what we read in the papers or see on the news, and so we hear about these allegations, but I want to know, what specifically they are talking about when they say abuse of power and police corruption? So it’s very difficult. Like I said, there’s a lot of uncertainty and we’re just waiting to see if anything drops or what’s going to happen, so we don’t know.
KK: When I first heard there was this special (assistant U.S. attorney) coming from the mainland and taking a look at this situation, I felt relieved. I felt like it was someone who was going to come from the outside who won’t have any political blinders on and at this point, my feeling is more of frustration.
GM: You’re two people with an incredible amount of power in the police department, in the prosecutor’s department. Have you ever used that for personal gain or vendetta?
LK: No, that would be totally unethical. We’ve never done anything like that. We spent so much time in our careers, once we decided that public service is what we wanted to do, we prepared for it. We prepared and invested so much into it. We’re not going to jeopardize our careers and our reputations for something so frivolous.
GM: If an officer is accused of something, they’ll often be ROPAed (Restriction of Police Authority), put on desk duty. You’re under a cloud of suspicion from the grand jury. Should you be doing your job or stepping aside until it’s over?
LK: That’s a good question and here’s the answer. I’m no different than any other officer, whether it’s in the top administration and top brass, or an officer walking the beat. I’m no different than that. I don’t expect to be treated differently than that. The difference here is that whenever one of our officers are put under investigation or ROPAed is that they are served with a complaint. I’ve never been served with any complaint. Until then, I shouldn’t be on ROPA because that’s the due process. Serve me with a complaint, allow me to respond to the complaint and then we can go from there.
The bottom line is that the Kealohas maintain they have been cleared of wrongdoing, starting with the civil case they won and then after many county level investigations. They think they’ll be cleared on the federal level, too.
LK: I think what this whole thing is the same issues being rehashed in different arenas. You have the federal court, you have the civil trial, you have the ethics, now you have the federal investigation. This is continuing to be rehashed. I think what this is all about is you have people with their own professional and personal agendas to achieve their own goals.
GM: Have either of you used resources from the police department and the prosecutor’ s office, or vice versa of each others’, for personal gain?
LK: No. Absolutely not. We would never do something like that. I dedicated my life to public service. I have 33 years in the police department, six and a half as the chief. There is nothing that I would do violate the symbol of the badge which is public trust.
I was born and raised here. I love this island. I love this state and I would not to anything to disappoint my community and the men and women of the Honolulu Police Department.
GM: How confident are you that you will be cleared in this federal case?
LK: I would be surprised if anything came out. I am absolutely confident that these allegations, that they’re going to be unfounded.
KK: I agree, the same.
But what about all the evidence presented to the FBI? What’s at stake and how did it get the attention of the FBI and a grand jury?
Federal public defender Alexander Silvert represented Katherine Kealoha’s uncle, Gerard Puana, when the Kealohas accused him in that case that ended in mistrial of stealing their mailbox during a family financial dispute.
AS: After the mistrial, I presented the evidence I had to the U.S. attorney’s office. I asked them if warranted to dismiss with prejudice, which they did, and for them to refer to FBI for investigation, which they did. (The FBI) could have dropped it, but instead a special prosecutor was appointed by Attorney General (Eric) Holder to come into the case, to investigate and to proceed before the grand jury, and that is where we are today.
Silvert says it’s a whole different ballgame than county ethics investigations, or the civil trial that ended in a verdict on the Kealohas’ side, or Puana’s federal mistrial.
AS: It’s a very different venue. We’re discussing in the grand jury as I understand criminal charges that involved criminal civil rights violations, obstruction charges, false services charges, dishonest services of government workers. There’s a lot more going on in the grand jury that involves criminal allegations that do not go into play in the police commission or the ethics commission.
The Kealohas say they have done nothing wrong and question what’s behind the multi-agency inquiries and investigations.
LK: I think what this is all about is you have people with their own professional and personal agendas to achieve their own goals. This is something everyone wants to hang their hat on to promote themselves, so it is frustrating. It is disappointing in a way to see how this is unfolding.
KK: There are a lot of cases that I’ve been currently working on that a lot of people are very upset about, and I’m talking about a lot of people that are in substantial positions of power within the county.
GM: It seems so unfathomable that so many agencies and individuals would realistically gang up on two people.
LK: I think people want to believe so much that the police chief is corrupt, that the prosecutor is corrupt, that they’re willing to do anything including lie to make it true.
But should either of them be on the job while this all plays out?
AS: You have to look at what he’s doing now, why he’s doing the things he does, who he is promoting, the policies that he set in, all of these things come into question when you look back later as to why did he do it. Did he do it for personal reasons, personal gain, or did he do it for the good of the department?
The Kealohas say a lot of new information about the ethics investigations and the political motivation they think is behind all of this. Our coverage continues Thursday.