- Associated Press - Thursday, February 12, 2015

HONOLULU (AP) - A jury sided with the Honolulu police chief’s wife Thursday in a financial dispute that pitted her against her 95-year-old grandmother and uncle.

After deliberating for a few hours, the jury reached a verdict essentially clearing Chief Louis Kealoha’s wife, Katherine Kealoha, of stealing money from her grandmother and uncle.

Florence Puana and her son, Gerard Puana, took Katherine Kealoha to court over money they said she stole from a reverse mortgage on the grandmother’s home. Their lawsuit said Kealoha, on personal leave as head of the career criminal unit of the Honolulu prosecutor’s office, arranged for the reverse mortgage to buy Gerard Puana a condo. They alleged she then took the money that was left over after the condo was purchased and spent it on things such as Elton John tickets, luxury car payments and a $24,000 hotel breakfast for her husband’s police chief induction.

The jurors answered “no” to a series of questions, including whether Kealoha wrongfully converted the Puanas’ money and breached a fiduciary relationship.

Kealoha counter-sued, saying her uncle made misrepresentations that she’s entitled to receive damages for. The jury agreed, awarding Kealoha about $658,000 in damages.

The Puanas, and their attorney Gerald Kurashima, declined to comment as they left the courthouse. Kealoha also declined to comment, beyond expressing thanks for the jurors’ service.

During his closing argument Wednesday, Kurashima told jurors that Kealoha abused their trust and took advantage of them. “Why would a granddaughter, very intelligent, very successful, do something like this?” Kurashima said. “The only reason is she thought she could get away with it. … She never expected Florence Puana or Gerard Puana to bring this action.”

In addition to airing the messy family feud, the case was at the root of allegations of misconduct by the police department. In a separate criminal case, Gerard Puana went to trial in federal court for allegations that he stole the Kealohas’ home mailbox. A mistrial was declared when the chief improperly testified about Puana’s criminal history. The case was later dropped.

Puana’s public defender in the criminal case, Alexander Silvert, raised allegations of misconduct related to how police handled Puana’s arrest. Silvert said his client was framed in an attempt to discredit him in the civil case.

Silvert didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday.


Follow Jennifer Sinco Kelleher at https://www.twitter.com/JenHapa

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