Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Drug Charges Added to Kealoha Case

Cory Lum
Civil Beat

A federal grand jury indictment unsealed Tuesday accuses a former Honolulu city prosecutor of dealing opioids with her physician brother and using her position to cover up their crimes.

Katherine Kealoha, the wife of now-retired Honolulu police chief Louis Kealoha, steered law enforcement away from investigating her brother, Dr. Rudolph Puana, after police told her that he was buying cocaine, according to the indictment.

The siblings and unnamed co-conspirators were charged with distributing oxycodone, fentanyl and Xanax. Messages left for their lawyers were not immediately returned.

Puana was arrested amid a growing federal corruption investigation that has resulted in indictments against the Kealohas and current and former officers.

They are scheduled to go to trial next month after being accused of framing Katherine Kealoha's uncle for the theft of the couple's home mailbox to discredit him in a family financial dispute.

State Attorney General Petitions State Supreme Court

On Tuesday, Hawaii Attorney General Clare Connors asked the state Supreme Court to immediately suspend Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro because he is a target in the investigation.

Connors called the petition "unprecedented."

A court hearing is scheduled Thursday for a separate petition by a Honolulu businessman calling for Kaneshiro's impeachment.

Bill McCorriston, an attorney representing Kaneshiro, confirmed that Kaneshiro received a letter saying he is a target of the investigation, but he contends Connors' petition is speculative and based on media reports. McCorriston said there's no dysfunction in the prosecutor's office and Kaneshiro deserves a presumption of innocence.

Corporation Counsel Donna Leong, Honolulu's chief legal officer, took a leave of absence after receiving a target letter linked to the corruption investigation. Chasid Sapolu, Honolulu's second-highest-ranking prosecutor, announced a leave of absence after receiving a subject letter, which is less serious than a target letter.

Latest Indictment Against Katherine Kealoha's Brother

The latest indictment said Puana, an anesthesiologist and pain doctor, advised one co-conspirator to use proceeds from the sale of illegal prescription pain medication to buy cocaine for the two of them. They would also "sell and barter" medication in exchange for cocaine, the indictment said.

When a police officer notified Kealoha that her brother and a co-conspirator were buying and using cocaine, she "arranged to have herself assigned as the prosecutor" of the investigation, the indictment said.

That allowed her to "steer law enforcement scrutiny away from her brother's felonious conduct in that drug conspiracy," the indictment said.

She then gave favorable plea deals to others involved "to reduce the likelihood they would reveal that her brother had distributed controlled substances," the document says.

Puana is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday - where federal prosecutors will be ask for no bail.

The Associated Press is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering, supplying a steady stream of news to its members, international subscribers and commercial customers. Founded in 1846, AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, it's a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members.
Related Stories