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Hawaiʻi Supreme Court says taxpayers should not pay for Kealoha legal defense

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

Taxpayers will not be on the hook for former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha’s legal fees.

The Hawaiʻi Supreme Court has reversed lower court rulings that said the now-imprisoned police chief was eligible for publicly funded legal representation.

This stems from his federal criminal indictment in 2017. He was eventually convicted on conspiracy charges and obstruction of justice. Kealoha is currently serving a seven-year sentence in an Oregon prison.

Police officers are eligible for taxpayer-funded representation if they are performing their job duties to benefit the public, but the court said that Kealoha was not acting in any way to perform his duties as police chief.

In 2017, Kealoha, his wife, Katherine Kealoha, and several HPD officers faced federal criminal conspiracy charges. The Kealohas asked the City and County of Honolulu to provide a defense attorney.

The city’s corporation counsel recommended the Police Commission deny the request, but the commission approved the legal defense.

The city appealed, but the First Circuit Court and the Intermediate Court of Appeals upheld the ruling. It was then taken up by the Supreme Court last year.

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