Agents search servers and seize com­put­ers as part of the on­go­ing Kealoha in­ves­ti­ga­tion

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - By Marcel Honore and Leila Fu­ji­mori mhonore@starad­ver­tiser.com lfu­ji­mori@starad­ver­tiser.com

FBI agents served the Honolulu’s Pros­e­cu­tor’s Of­fice with a search war­rant Fri­day as part of the on­go­ing fed­eral cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­volv­ing the city’s out­go­ing po­lice chief and a deputy pros­e­cu­tor, of­fi­cials said.

The move al­lowed the FBI to search servers at the of­fice one day af­ter a fed­eral judge took pos­ses­sion of two work-re­lated lap­tops be­long­ing to Deputy Pros­e­cu­tor Kather­ine Kealoha, ac­cord­ing to her at­tor­ney, Myles Breiner. Kealoha and her hus­band, out­go­ing Honolulu Po­lice Chief Louis Kealoha, have been em­broiled in a grand jury in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­leged con­spir­acy and cor­rup­tion that cen­ters around them and sev­eral po­lice of­fi­cers.

Ac­cord­ing to Breiner, the in­ves­ti­ga­tion’s spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor, Michael Wheat, is­sued a sub­poena Thurs­day for Kather­ine Kealoha to turn over two of her work lap­tops. How­ever, Honolulu Pros­e­cu­tor Keith Kaneshiro and Breiner each ob­jected, he said. Kaneshiro, Breiner said, was wor­ried that the lap­tops’ seizure could af­fect on­go­ing crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions, and Breiner had con­cerns their seizure could violate at­tor­ney-client priv­i­lege.

U.S. Dis­trict Judge Michael Seabright then took the lap­tops into cus­tody, Breiner told the Honolulu Star-Ad­ver­tiser.

Breiner said the FBI’s sep­a­rate search war­rant Fri­day for com­puter servers at the Pros­e­cu­tor’s Of­fice could be a way to avoid at least the at­tor­ney-client priv­i­lege is­sues.

“It’s a hunt­ing ex­pe­di­tion. They’re look­ing for things,” Breiner said. “It’s a very broad-spec­trum search war­rant.”

FBI Spe­cial Agent Arnold Laanui is­sued a state­ment con­firm­ing that “spe­cial agents were con­duct­ing in­ves­tiga­tive ac­tiv­ity at the Of­fice of the Honolulu Prose­cut­ing At­tor­ney” on Richards Street. Cit­ing FBI pol­icy re­gard­ing on­go­ing

in­ves­ti­ga­tions, Laanui said the agency “will not be pro­vid­ing, at this time, any state­ments re­gard­ing the sub­jects of its in­ves­ti­ga­tion, iden­ti­ties of vic­tims, or the pur­pose of to­day’s ac­tiv­ity.”

“Pre­serv­ing the in­tegrity of our in­ves­ti­ga­tion, as well as the in­tegrity of the Pros­e­cu­tor’s Of­fice, is a pri­mary con­cern to the FBI. We wish to keep dis­rup­tions to their op­er­a­tions to a min­i­mum,” he said.

In a brief writ­ten state­ment Fri­day af­ter­noon, Kaneshiro said, “FBI agents served a search war­rant at the Of­fice of the Prose­cut­ing At­tor­ney this morn­ing. This of­fice fully co­op­er­ated with the agents and pro­vided in­for­ma­tion re­quested in the war­rant.”

The of­fice of­fered no fur­ther in­for­ma­tion.

Attorneys say this was a highly un­usual move by the fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor.

“In my life­time I have never heard a fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor raid­ing a state pros­e­cu­tor,” said Alexan­der Sil­vert, fed­eral pub­lic de­fender. Sil­vert rep­re­sents Kather­ine Kealoha’s un­cle Ger­ard Puana, who he main­tains was framed by the Kealo­has for al­legedly steal­ing their mail­box at their Ka­hala home in 2013.

The grand jury in­ves­ti­ga­tion stems from a fam­ily

feud in­volv­ing Puana. Sil­vert also ac­cuses Chief Kealoha of pur­posely trig­ger­ing a mis­trial Dec. 4 in the fed­eral crim­i­nal theft case against Puana to avert a not-guilty ver­dict that would have un­der­cut Kather­ine Kealoha’s stand­ing in a civil case against Puana.

“It’s cer­tainly ex­tremely un­usual,” said Sil­vert, who turned over in­for­ma­tion to the FBI for in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which led to the grand jury in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Sil­vert said Kaneshiro “de­clared

war on the fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor and the fed­eral grand jury” a few months ago by crit­i­ciz­ing him and the fed­eral grand jury process, call­ing it a “cir­cus” and “out­ra­geous.”

Al­though Sil­vert was pre­vi­ously un­aware of the search war­rant, he said, “There’s no ques­tion that this is re­lated to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

Kealoha, who last week agreed to re­tire, is still work­ing out the de­tails of his com­pen­sa­tion pack­age with

Holy cow! I’ve never heard of a search war­rant be­ing ex­e­cuted on a pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice.”

Loretta Shee­han For­mer fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor, re­cently ap­pointed to the Honolulu Po­lice Com­mis­sion

the Po­lice Com­mis­sion. On Dec. 20 the chief placed him­self on vol­un­tary paid leave af­ter the FBI sent him a “tar­get let­ter” in­form­ing him that he is the fo­cus of a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

On Dec. 16 re­tired HPD of­fi­cer Niall Silva pleaded guilty to con­spir­ing with other po­lice of­fi­cers and Kather­ine Kealoha to frame Puana for the theft of the mail­box.

“Holy cow!” ex­claimed Loretta Shee­han, a for­mer fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor who was re­cently ap­pointed to the Honolulu Po­lice Com­mis­sion, when she learned of the raid. “I’ve never heard of a search war­rant be­ing ex­e­cuted on a pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice, but I have heard of it in lawyers’ of­fices.”

She added, “It’s an ex­tra­or­di­nary step to ex­e­cute a search war­rant on a busi­ness as it’s very dis­rup­tive to the op­er­a­tion of a busi­ness. A search war­rant sug­gests the fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors did not be­lieve that a sim­ple grand jury sub­poena com­pelling records was suf­fi­cient.”

As a fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor, Shee­han said, she was fa­mil­iar with cases where search war­rants were ex­e­cuted at of­fi­cers of attorneys who were sus­pected of col­lud­ing with clients, hid­ing money, hid­ing drug records or laun­der­ing money.

“There were times when you ex­e­cute war­rants; that’s when you think they’re in­volved in crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity,” she said.

Puana’s at­tor­ney, Eric Seitz, who has filed a civil com­plaint for dam­ages on be­half of Puana against the Kealo­has and five po­lice of­fi­cers, said he had no way of know­ing what the search war­rants were about but said, “I’m sure it’s re­lated to the Kealoha grand jury (in­ves­ti­ga­tion).”

He said the civil suit, filed Dec. 14, has not been served, and he won’t take ac­tion un­til the crim­i­nal case is re­solved.


Chuck Parker, spokesman for the Honolulu Pros­e­cu­tor’s Of­fice, left, de­liv­ered a writ­ten state­ment to mem­bers of the news me­dia Fri­day af­ter FBI agents searched com­puter servers at the of­fice.

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