KEALOHA TRIAL: Prosecutors have 3-4 witnesses left, will get to them after one week recess

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HONOLULU (KHON2)

Week 3

Day 12, 6/7/2019

2:24 p.m. The Kealoha trial is now on recess until Monday, June 17. Prosecutors say they have 3-4 witnesses left and should be done that Monday or early Tuesday.

2:10 p.m. Prosecutors played an audio recording of Bobby Nguyen when he testified before the grand jury in May 2016. Prosecutors pointed out he had a lot of calls and texts between him and Niall Silva during the time of Gerard Puana’s criminal trial for mailbox theft, as well as the time he was interviewed by the FBI. For the most part Nguyen answered that he couldn’t remember why because it was 2-3 years ago.

Prosecutors also played Nguyen’s testimony when they asked why he asked Florence Puana what color car Gerard was driving. Florence mistakenly said white when it’s actually silver. This was two days before the mailbox theft. The car shown in surveillance video of the theft is white.

1:42 p.m. The trust was not admitted as evidence in the civil trial between the Puanas and Katherine Kealoha. She said she didn’t recognize the document. Kealoha won the lawsuit and the Puanas were ordered to pay her more than $600,000 plus attorneys’ fees. It is currently on appeal.

During cross-examination Cynthia Kagiwada, Kealoha’s attorney pointed out that while Kealoha was named trustee, the beneficiary was Gerard’s son. Kagiwada said Kealoha also eventually resigned as trustee.

1:17 p.m. Also on the witness stand was Gerald Kurashima, an attorney who represented Gerard and Florence Puana in the civil lawsuit against Katherine Kealoha.

He noted that the Gerard Puana Trust which names Kealoha as the trustee, was notarized by Alison Lee Wong. But the state has no record of her as a notary. The document also did not have a notary seal, which is usually done to make documents officially notarized.
 

Kurashima testified that when he asked Kealoha about the document during a deposition Kealoha said the trust does not look like the same document she signed. And that while she knows an Alison Wong, that is not the same person who notarized the document.

11:00 a.m. Rick Ornellas, who has known Katherine Kealoha for 15-20 years, testified that he got emails from an Alison Lee Wong in 2011. She identified herself as Kealoha’s secretary. He said he emailed Wong three times asking her to call him but she never did. They were also supposed to get together with Wong, Kealoha, and others. But it was canceled. 

So prosecutors are putting more emphasis on whether Alison Lee Wong actually exists.

10:20 a.m. A retired FBI special agent took the witness stand. He enhanced the surveillance video of the mailbox being stolen. He also made enhanced still images showing the man in the video.

It was still very hard to see but prosecutors made the point that you can see facial hair on the man in the video.

In past testimony prosecutors showed pictures of Gerard Puana before and after the mailbox theft without facial hair.

Day 11, 6/6/2019

2:26 p.m. A handwriting analysis expert testified that Gerard Puana’s living trust does not match his normal signature. He said there’s a high probability that he did not write it. He could not say who did.

He also examined Katherine Kealoha’s handwriting. And the expert said the signature of Alison Lee Wong as notary public on the trust could have been written by Kealoha.

The trust names Kealoha as the trustee for the condo that was bought for Puana, using the money from his mother Florence’s reverse mortgage.

11:16 a.m. The attorney for Louis Kealoha, Rustam Barbee, pointed out that Puana has no alibi for the night the mailbox was stolen. Puana said he was home but no one can vouch for him.

Barbee as well as Kagiwada said Puana had been doing crystal meth when he was at the treatment center. Puana denied it but said he was smoking marijuana.

Barbee also asked Puana if he ever got in any legal trouble related to alcohol abuse. Puana said yes, when he was in his 20’s.

Barbee also pointed out that Louis Kealoha was not involved in the financial dispute between his wife and the Puanas.

10:58 a.m. Kagiwada also played a video from the Kealoha security cameras showing Puana driving by the house and throwing a cup of coffee out. Kagiwada said Puana was throwing it at Kealoha. Puana said he was just throwing it toward a trash can. Kealoha was not visible in any of the cameras.

Kagiwada also asked Puana if it was true that he was making gestures at Kealoha while she doing a deposition for the civil lawsuit. And so he was forced to leave. Puana said he left with his mother Florence because Kealoha kept lying through the deposition.

10:39 a.m. Gerard Puana is back on the stand for more cross examination. Katherine Kealoha’s defense attorney, Cynthia Kagiwada, seems to be painting a picture that Puana has a bad temper.

When he was at the Sand Island Drug Treatment Center, there was an incident when Puana was upset at his roommate cause he apparently got some dirt on Puana’s bed. Kagiwada asked him if it was true that he lost his temper at his roommate so he was kicked out of the program? Puana said it’s not true. He had testified before that he left the program on his own when he learned it would take two and a half years to complete it. He said Kealoha told him it would take a month to six weeks.

Day 10, 6/5/2019

2:23 p.m. Puana could not hold back tears as he talked about the time the family found out that Katherine was not paying the reverse mortgage. He also talked about the angry letter Katherine wrote to the family after they had sent her a letter asking what happened to the money.

2:10 p.m. Gerard Puana testified that Katherine told her that the program at the treatment center will take six weeks. When he got there he was told it would take two and a half years. So he stopped and he was sent back to OCCC.

While in custody Puana was allowed to make a phone call once a week and can only call landlines collect. He tried calling his mother and his sister but he said their phones were locked meaning they don’t allow collect calls. He got a hold of his brother Rudy Puana, Katherine’s father. But he would not accept his collect call.

An inmate who was released helped him get a hold of his sister who then bailed him out the next day. He was in custody for 71 days.

1:26 p.m. Gerard Puana said after he got arrested for unlawful entry into his neighbor’s house in 2011, Katherine Kealoha arranged a meeting with him and told him she tested a hair sample from his hairbrush and he tested positive for crystal meth. Puana had testified that years before he was addicted to it but has already stopped using it.

Puana said Kealoha told him that the only way she can help him is if he admitted himself to the Sand Island Drug Treatment Center. So he agreed to do it.

Throughout the testimony Puana talked about how much he and his mother trusted Kealoha.
“Trusted her wholeheartedly,” he said.

He testified that when Kealoha first brought up taking out a reverse mortgage on Florence Puana’s house, Gerard said Florence was adamant against it. The money would help Gerard buy a condo and refinance the loan on the Kealoha’s Kahala house. 

Florence said it wouldn’t be fair to her other eight children. But Gerard says Kealoha told them,  “We don’t have to tell anybody. We’ll keep it a secret.” She promised them that it will be paid off in six months so the rest of the family would never know.

This was similar to testimony from Florence when she gave a video deposition played to the jury on Tuesday.

10:49 a.m. Prosecutors first question to Gerard Puana was did he take the Kealohas‘ mailbox? “Absolutely not!” he said.

10:20 a.m. Gerard Puana, the central figure in this trial, is now on the witness stand.

10:11 a.m. FBI Agent Carly Lum is on the witness stand. She analyzed the phone records of all the defendants as well as Niall Silva and U.S. Postal Inspector Brian Shaughnessy.

She pointed out that there were a lot of contacts, meaning phone calls or text messages in the days before the alleged mailbox theft in June 21, 2013.

From June 17-20, she said there were 76 contacts between Bobby Nguyen and Katherine Kealoha, and 18 contacts between her and Derek Hahn.

Lum says there was also an increase in phone contacts in December 4, 2014. That was the day of the Gerard Puana trial for the mailbox theft.

Lum also pointed out that after the FBI called Nguyen and interviewed him, he made several contacts with Kealoha and Silva.

During cross examination defense attorneys pointed out that it’s not known what was actually discussed during those contacts. And the analysis does not show contacts made by the defendants to other people. Defense attorneys showed that their clients made contacts with other police officers in the Criminal Intelligence Unit.

Day 9, 6/4/2019

2:37 p.m. Throughout her deposition, the 99-year-old Florence Puana seemed lucid. She was able to remember key incidents and important dates. She also recognized documents using a magnifying glass to read them.

During  cross-examination, she seemed more confused as defense attorneys asked about the documents Puana had signed and her testimony from the civil trial in 2014.

1:58 p.m. Katherine Kealoha’s attorney, Cynthia Kagiwada, also pointed out that even though the mortgage kept going up, Florence Puana did not have to sell the house. She still could have stayed there. Also, when Puana did sell the house she got some money back from what she lost on the reverse mortgage.

1:21 p.m. During cross-examination Kealoha’s attorney pointed out that it was Florence Puana’s signature in the documents that instructed the money to go to the joint account. And that Kealoha did help get Gerard buy his condo.

The other defense attorneys pointed out that their clients were not involved.

11:37 a.m. Florence and Gerard Puana filed a civil suit against Katherine Kealoha in 2012 to try to recover the money and Kealoha filed a counter lawsuit claiming that Florence was incompetent. 
While Kealoha was doing a deposition for the lawsuit, Florence was present and said she had to leave in the middle of it and told Gerard that Katherine was lying in the deposition. The Puanas lost that civil lawsuit.

10:59 a.m. Jurors are watching the video deposition of 99-year-old Florence Puana, the grandmother of Katherine Kealoha and mother of Gerard Puana.

Florence said Kealoha helped her get the reverse mortgage on the house and promised that she would pay it off. And also use some of the money to help Gerard get a condo. The reverse mortgage was for more than $500,000.

“She promised that she would help me and I believed her,” Florence said. She adds that Katherine told her, “Grandma don’t worry you can trust me. I’m an attorney.”

Florence agreed to hire Kealoha as her attorney. She also she signed a document which Kealoha told her was part of the reverse mortgage. She later found out it was to open a joint account for the two of them.

Florence said that she later got a letter from the mortgage company saying she could risk losing her home because the mortgage was not being paid. She said she kept trying to contact Kealoha about it but got no response.

Katherine eventually came to the house and told family angrily, “I told you guys that the reverse mortgage is paid off.”

Florence said she also found out that Kealoha arranged to have the bank statements sent to a post office box. That’s why she didn’t find out that the reverse mortgage was not getting paid until it was too late. She said she had to sell the house even though she promised her husband to sell the house after she died and have her nine children split the money.

When asked what happened to the money from the reverse mortgage, Florence said, “She (Kealoha) spent it all.”

Day 8, 6/3/2019

6:00 p.m. Prosecutors plan to show the video testimony of Florence Puana, the mother of Gerard Puana during Tuesday’s proceedings. She is 99 years old. Prosecutors say it was the reverse mortgage on her home that Katherine Kealoha talked her into getting. Katherine was in charge of paying the reverse mortgage but she did not make the payments.

1:19 p.m. The judge also scolded prosecutors when they wanted to show transcripts of Gordon Shiraishi’s recorded testimony to the grand jury. The judge had ruled against it before and prosecutors seemed confused. Special Prosecutor Michael Wheat said, “We were mistaken. I apologize.”

Judge Seabright was still angry though. “I’m shocked at the way you think I operate,” he said. 
He added, “If you want to avoid my ire I suggest that you be more organized with these things.”

11:01 a.m. FBI Special Agent Caryn Ackerman is on the witness stand. She investigated the Gerard Puana case to see if his rights were violated due to the alleged mailbox theft arrest.

Her early testimony got prosecutors in hot water with the judge. She was also an attorney and talked about finding “truth and justice. “ Judge Michael Seabright immediately called for a sidebar and was clearly angry at prosecutors.

When the jury left the courtroom right before recess, the judge told prosecutors, “No more of that.”

10:11 a.m. A deputy attorney general with the notary public office testified that there is no record of Alison Lee Wong as a notary public officer in Hawaii.

The president of the American Association of Notaries also testified that in 2008, an order was placed online for notary supplies for Alison Lee Wong. The order was sent to a Kathryn Aloha, Director of the OEQC, the Office of Environmental Quality Control. Katherine Kealoha also worked at that office during that time. Prosecutors say Kealoha used the name Alison Lee Wong as an alias to forge documents.

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