At least 2 seals die after caught in fishing nets
HONOLULU — Postmortem exams show at least two of three Hawaiian monk seals found on Kauai last year died after they were caught in fishing nets.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration determined the seals likely drowned after becoming entangled in gillnets. The agency used lab tests and information from law enforcement to analyze the deaths of the animals discovered in September, November and December.
One of the three seals was severely decomposed, causing difficulty in determining an exact cause of death.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources said the majority of fishers in Hawaii practice safe fishing, but some gillnet fishers and others “fish recklessly, with devastating impact on native and endangered species.”
The Hawaii Division Aquatic Resources website includes legal requirements for gillnet use. Unlawful use includes leaving nets unattended without visual inspection every two hours, leaving nets in the water for more than four hours in a 24-hour period and failing to release or remove undersized, illegal or unwanted catch.
Hawaii Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officers have increased patrols to look for contact between monk seals and gillnets.
Final two defendants in corruption case sentenced
HONOLULU — A retired Honolulu police officer and a Big Island firefighter were sentenced Wednesday in connection with a corruption case involving former Honolulu deputy prosecutor Katherine Kealoha and her now estranged husband, former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha.
Retired Honolulu police officer Niall Silva was sentenced to nine months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy charges in 2016. He will be sent to prison in June and serve a year of supervised release following his term.
Silva earlier pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice and making false statements.
The Kealohas were both convicted of conspiracy, obstruction and bank fraud following a federal investigation after they were accused in 2014 by a relative, Gerard Puana, of stealing their mailbox because of a family feud.
Silva testified for the prosecution that he conspired with a lieutenant and another officer to lie about surveillance footage taken from the Kealoha home of a man seen hoisting the mailbox into a car. Federal prosecutors said he was instrumental in the case against the Kealohas.
Separately, Big Island firefighter Jesse Ebersole, who in 2018 pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to obstruct after lying to a grand jury about an affair he had with Katherine Kealoha, was sentenced to two years of probation and 500 hours of community service.
Court documents showed Kealoha paid for hotels and airline tickets with money illegally obtained to fly the Hawaii County firefighter from Hilo to Honolulu.
Louis Kealoha was sentenced to seven years and Katherine Kealoha was sentenced to 13.