State briefs for October 20

Kealoha wants phone hearings during pandemic

HONOLULU (AP) — A former high-ranking Honolulu prosecutor who is in jail while awaiting sentencing for a conspiracy conviction in Hawaii’s largest corruption case wants to participate in hearings for a lawsuit her uncle filed against her by telephone because of the pandemic.

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Katherine Kealoha’s uncle, Gerard Puana, is suing her because she framed him for stealing a mailbox at the home she shared with her now-estranged, retired police chief husband.

The framing was central to a criminal trial against Katherine and Louis Kealoha, where a jury convicted them of conspiracy in a plot to frame Puana to keep him from revealing fraud that financed their lavish lifestyle.

In a neatly handwritten letter to the judge and filed in court Monday, she also asked for access to hard drives for her civil, ethics and criminal cases because the paper files are too voluminous for her cell at the Honolulu Federal Detention Center.

Her letter also said that an amended complaint in the case arrived in the regular mail instead of legal mail and is missing pages 13 and 14.

She asked for more time to answer the complaint.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Wes Reber Porter ordered that the court clerk’s office mail Kealoha a copy of the amended complaint, but he denied her request for hard-drive access.

Judge rejects plea in sex solicitation case

HONOLULU (AP) — A U.S. judge on Monday rejected a former Maui police officer’s guilty plea in a case accusing him of soliciting sex from a woman he pulled over for operating a vehicle while intoxicated in exchange for giving false testimony at her trial.

Brandon Saffeels said he offered to testify untruthfully. But when U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi asked if he made his offer in exchange for solicitation of sex — as federal prosecutors alleged — he said he wasn’t admitting to seeking any sexual favors if he lied at the woman’s trial.

He told the woman that he “would stumble on my words to make my testimony not credible,” he said.

A court document charging Saffeels with honest services wire fraud said he allegedly used his position as a police officer to access the woman’s cellphone number and solicit sex in exchange for sabotaging the case against her.

The woman felt Saffeels’ statements to her were a bribe for sex, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mohammad Khatib said.

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She interpreted his statements as “sexual overtures,” he said.

Saffeels was expected to plead guilty, but Kobayashi took issue with how prosecutors charged him, accusing him of bribery.

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