HONOLULU (CN) – Beleaguered Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha resigned during a closed-door meeting with the city’s police commission Friday, following the revelation that he is under investigation by a federal grand jury.
The grand jury is believed to be targeting Kealoha and his wife, deputy prosecutor Katherine Kealoha, over their involvement in the prosecution of Katherine’s uncle, Gerald Puana. Puana was arrested in the theft of the Kealohas’ mailbox after Katherine identified Puana on surveillance video.
But Puana’s arrest has been called into question with the recent federal conviction of a Honolulu police officer for tampering with evidence in the case. Puana claims in a separate federal civil suit that the Kealohas framed him in retaliation for a lawsuit he filed months earlier accusing them of converting his mother’s assets.
During the federal criminal trial against Puana in 2014, Chief Kealoha blurted out information about Puana’s criminal history during direct examination – leading to a mistrial. Many including Puana’s attorney Alexander Silvert viewed the chief’s actions as an intentional ploy to stop the trial, since it both prevented his wife from having to repeat her testimony on the witness stand and assured that a verdict would not affect a civil matter pending against Puana in which Katherine Kealoha was ultimately awarded $140,000.
Earlier this year, Chief Kealoha seemed to prevail in a game of chicken with the Honolulu Ethics Commission, which withdrew charges against the chief even as he railed against the agency’s former chairman Charles Totto in yet another lawsuit.
A 33-year veteran of the force and chief since 2009, Louis Kealoha was both admired and disparaged as an insider. His resignation – and whatever crisis it has caused state oversight agencies – will likely be his legacy. Terms of his retirement are being worked out by the police commission, even as it begins it search for a replacement.