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Firefighter pleads guilty to conspiracy after affair with Katherine Kealoha

HONOLULU (KHON2) - A Hawaii island firefighter has pleaded guilty to conspiracy for lying under oath to a grand jury about his affair with Honolulu deputy prosecutor Katherine Kealoha.

Jesse Ebersole told a federal judge Thursday that Kealoha told him to lie and conceal the money she had given him throughout their relationship.

In addition to pleading guilty, Ebersole also agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in their case against Kealoha and her husband, former police chief Louis Kealoha.

Ebersole arrived in court with his attorney, Don Wilkerson, who had nothing to say about the case. 

In court, more details were revealed about what Ebersole claims he was told by Katherine Kealoha to say to the grand jury.

He told the judge: "She told me to tell the court that we were just friends. The truth is that we had an intimate relationship."

Prosecutors say Kealoha had paid for about $25,000 in benefits, including airfares and hotel stays in Honolulu.

Ebersole said she also made his car payments, and told the judge that if that was brought up in the grand jury, she told him, "I should tell them that I used money from a workers comp settlement that she represented me on."

When the judge asked him if that was the truth, Ebersole said, "That was not accurate."

Alexander Silvert, a federal defense attorney who represented Gerard Puana, Kealoha's uncle, says the latest revelations should convince Louis Kealoha to testify against his wife.

"I really have to think that Chief Kealoha, if there was ever a moment in a case where you had the opportunity to come forward and work with the government and make the best deal possible, this is that moment in the case," he said, "and if he misses this moment, I don't think there's going to be another chance." 

The penalty for the conspiracy charge is up to five years and a $250,000 fine. It's not clear how much of that he'll actually get since he is cooperating.

Ebersole has been with the Hawaii County Fire Department for 25 years and was recently promoted to battalion chief.

He was put on paid leave after he was charged. We're waiting to hear if that has changed since his guilty plea.

There have now been three guilty pleas in connection with the Kealoha case.

Former officer Niall Silva pleaded guilty to conspiracy in December 2016. He was accused of falsifying records, obstructing an official proceeding, and making false statements.

In January, Ransen Taito also pleaded guilty to conspiracy.

The federal government says Katherine Kealoha was in charge of more than $167,000 set aside for Taito and his sister.

Taito says she told him to tell the grand jury that he and his sister already received the money. If they didn't, their mother would go to jail.

They're both awaiting sentencing.


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