Elec­tri­cian’s speed­ing ticket zapped af­ter work­ing for Kealo­has

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - By Nel­son Daran­ciang ndaran­ciang@starad­ver­tiser.com

A 31-year-old Niu Val­ley man says city Deputy Pros­e­cu­tor Kather­ine Kealoha had his speed­ing ticket dis­missed af­ter he did some elec­tri­cal work for her and her hus­band, for­mer Honolulu Po­lice Chief Louis Kealoha.

Adam Wong told the Honolulu Star-Ad­ver­tiser, “I did some­thing for her. I just asked her to do some­thing for me.”

A fed­eral grand jury in­dicted the Kealo­has and four for­mer mem­bers of the Honolulu Po­lice De­part­ment’s elite Crim­i­nal In­tel­li­gence Unit last month on fed­eral charges of con­spir­acy, ob­struc­tion of jus­tice, ly­ing to in­ves­ti­ga­tors, bank fraud and iden­tity theft. The elec­tri­cian said he tes­ti­fied in front of the grand jury that in­dicted the Kealo­has.

“I didn’t know it was go­ing to turn into this,” Wong said. “I’m so up­set that I got caught up in this.”

So far no one has been charged with any crimes in con­nec­tion with Wong’s dis­missed ticket. Fed­eral prose­cu­tors, how­ever, have re­ferred to the case in open court.

Colin McDon­ald, a spe­cial at­tor­ney for the Jus­tice De­part­ment, told U.S. Mag­is­trate Judge Richard Puglisi at the Kealo­has’ ar­raign­ment Oct. 20 that Kather­ine Kealoha made false state­ments in state court in 2014 to get a case dis­missed against some­one with whom she and a law en­force­ment of­fi­cer had a po­ten­tial busi­ness re­la­tion­ship. McDon­ald did not name the law en­force­ment of­fi­cer or de­fen­dant or say what kind of case was dis­missed. McDon­ald also told Puglisi that Kealoha con­tacted the de­fen­dant in Jan­uary 2016 and told him that the dis­missal was a mis­take. Then in May 2016 Kealoha al­legedly met with the de­fen­dant at her of­fice to lay out a false nar­ra­tive about the case.

Wong said it was his ticket for ex­ces­sive speed­ing that was dis­missed and con­firmed McDon­ald’s ac­count of what hap­pened. A Honolulu po­lice of­fi­cer tick­eted Wong on Aug. 12, 2014, for driv­ing 78 mph on Like­like High­way just out­side the Honolulu end of the Wil­son Tun­nel where the speed limit is 35 mph. Among the po­ten­tial penal­ties for ex­ces­sive speed­ing is a jail term of be­tween two and five days for a first of­fense and be­tween 10 and 30 days for a third of­fense within five years.

Wong was not present for his ar­raign­ment in Honolulu District Court on Sept. 10,

2014. Kealoha was. She asked Honolulu District Judge Michael Tani­gawa to dis­miss the case.

“I know it’s a speed­ing of­fense, but the in­di­vid­ual who was driv­ing the car at the time is a ca­reer crim­i­nal who was not the in­di­vid­ual that he gave the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion for,” Kealoha said. She told Tani­gawa her of­fice in­tended to re­file the charge against the ac­tual driver in state Cir­cuit Court. At that time and up un­til she was placed on leave without pay last month fol­low­ing her in­dict­ment, Kealoha was head of the pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice ca­reer crim­i­nal unit. Tani­gawa dis­missed the case.

Wong said he was driv­ing the pickup truck that the of­fi­cer stopped for speed­ing. He de­clined to say what false nar­ra­tive Kealoha re­cited for him.

As ru­mors of the dis­missed ticket swirled, Kealoha’s boss, Honolulu Pros­e­cu­tor Keith Kaneshiro, told Hawaii News Now in Oc­to­ber 2016 that he ap­proved a plea agree­ment to have the speed­ing ticket dis­missed. A pros­e­cu­tor spokesman later said the speed­ing ticket was dis­missed as part of a co­op­er­a­tion agree­ment for in­for­ma­tion in an on­go­ing crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Kaneshiro told Civil Beat that his of­fice was in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether po­lice of­fi­cers were writ­ing fake or “ghost tick­ets” in or­der to col­lect over­time when they have to show up in court to tes­tify.

Af­ter Hawaii News Now and Civil Beat aired and pub­lished his com­ments, Kaneshiro ap­plied for and won ap­proval to con­vene a state spe­cial se­cret in­ves­tiga­tive grand jury in Novem­ber 2016. By that time he had al­ready ap­peared mul­ti­ple times be­fore the fed­eral grand jury that in­dicted the Kealo­has and had crit­i­cized the ef­fort as a fish­ing ex­pe­di­tion.

Kaneshiro’s of­fice re­fused to re­spond to re­quests for com­ment about the spe­cial grand jury. Ac­cord­ing to state court records, the spe­cial grand jury met eight times, the last time on April 10. Wong said he was called to tes­tify in front of the state grand jury.

De­spite Kaneshiro’s com­ments about his of­fice’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion of ghost ticket writ­ing, the of­fi­cer who tick­eted Wong was “not a sus­pect in any crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Kaneshiro’s of­fice said in April.

That state­ment came in re­sponse to a query from a lawyer rep­re­sent­ing a mo­torist tick­eted for ex­ces­sive speed­ing by the same of­fi­cer in Jan­uary. The lawyer had asked for records of any pros­e­cu­tions, dis­ci­plinary ac­tions or in­ves­ti­ga­tions of the of­fi­cer.

Myles Breiner had been the Kealo­has’ crim­i­nal de­fense lawyer up un­til his with­drawal from the case last week. He did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment. Kather­ine Kealoha’s court-ap­pointed lawyer, Cyn­thia Kagi­wada, did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

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