State briefs for December 16

Judge: Honolulu must pay for former police chief’s defense

HONOLULU — A judge’s ruling requires Honolulu taxpayers to pay the legal defense costs of the city’s former police chief, Louis Kealoha, who was convicted in a federal criminal corruption and fraud case.

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Honolulu city attorneys plan to appeal the decision for public payments for Kealoha’s defense.

He and his wife, former Honolulu Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Katherine Kealoha, were convicted of attempting to frame her uncle and conspiring to cover up their actions.

The Honolulu Police Commission voted in May 2019 to grant Louis Kealoha’s request for legal representation despite a recommendation against the request by Corporation Counsel Donna Leong, the city’s attorney at the time.

The Honolulu City Council sided with Leong’s position that Kealoha was not entitled to city representation and voted to have the attorney’s office challenge the commission’s decision in circuit court.

Circuit Judge James Ashford’s Dec. 2 ruling approved the city’s payment of the former chief’s legal bills.

Ashford ruled that the police commission acted properly in determining taxpayers should fund Kea­loha’s legal fees. The order cited a state law stating only the police commission can determine whether an act was done in the performance of a police officer’s duty.

The city’s opposition to the decision said Kealoha’s actions were not done in the performance of his official duties, but rather “for and motivated solely by his own interests and efforts to cover up his and his wife’s misdeeds.”

The City Council Executive Matters and Legal Affairs Committee is expected to be briefed today by city attorneys who are likely to recommend the council appeal Ashford’s decision to the state Intermediate Court of Appeals or the Hawaii Supreme Court.

Charges dismissed for woman accused of stealing from fund

WAILUKU, Maui — A Maui woman charged with illegally taking money from a fund set up for the care of her daughter was ordered to repay a bank nearly $173,000.

Prosecutors said Elizabeth Gentile forged an attorney’s signature and stole money from a bank conservatorship account for her daughter from June 2011-May 2013.

Gentile’s daughter’s attorney discovered unauthorized activity on May 3, 2013, and reported it.

Gentile pleaded no contest to theft, contempt of court and 19 counts of forgery. Prosecutors in a plea agreement did not seek prison time or oppose Gentile’s request for a chance to avoid conviction if she complies with court requirements during a five-year period. Pursuant to Hawaii law, the court deferred further proceedings pending her completion of terms imposed by the judge. The record reflects that charges were ultimately dismissed, effective October 2019.

Gentile’s daughter, a second-grader in 2004, broke her right femur in a fall May 21, 2004, on a wet cafeteria floor at Haiku Elementary School. She was left permanently disabled and unable to walk.

Gentile sued, claiming the girl was pushed. The lawsuit said school officials knew she suffered from juvenile arthritis and did not properly supervise the girl.

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A judge in August 2009 after a nonjury trial ordered the state to pay $787,397 to the girl and $100,000 to her mother.

Territorial Savings Bank opened a conservatorship to hold the money awarded to the girl. The bank was ordered to restore the account. Gentile was ordered to pay restitution to the bank.

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