- Associated Press - Monday, April 4, 2016

HONOLULU (AP) - A grand jury is looking into allegations of civil rights abuses and corruption by the Honolulu Police Department that emerged from a theft case involving the police chief’s mailbox, a federal public defender said Monday.

Alexander Silvert represented Gerard Puana, a relative of Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha and his city prosecutor wife, Katherine, when he was accused of stealing the mailbox in 2013. While defending Puana, Silvert said he and his investigators uncovered accusations, including that police falsified reports and used a special unit to monitor Puana illegally, then took those claims to the FBI.

The U.S. attorney’s office and FBI will not confirm or deny the investigation or that a grand jury has been convened. A police spokeswoman was checking Monday if the department would comment.

Grand jury proceedings are secret, but Silvert is privy to general details. He said grand jurors have been meeting since September and the U.S. attorney’s office brought in a special prosecutor from California, who recently brought in another prosecutor to help him.

“I’ve been told it’s happening by prosecutors,” he said, though he doesn’t know specifics about the proceedings. “There is absolutely no secret it’s happening.”

Puana’s case ended in a mistrial in 2014 when the chief gave improper testimony about Puana’s criminal history. The charges were dropped later. Silvert said he still represents Puana as a victim.

Silvert alleges that Kealoha intentionally gave improper testimony to stop the trial from uncovering illegal actions. He said he believes the Kealohas framed Puana, who is Katherine Kealoha’s uncle, with the mailbox allegations to discredit him in a lawsuit.

The lawsuit by Puana and his 95-year-old mother claimed Katherine Kealoha stole money from them.

A jury in state court sided with Katherine Kealoha, who is head of the career criminal unit in the Honolulu prosecutor’s office. A message seeking comment through a spokesman for the office was not returned.

What started as a curious case about a stolen mailbox has grown into much more.

“When I first got the case and was told it involved the wife of the chief of police, who’s a major, high-ranking prosecutor, and the chief of police … I assumed this would be a rather straightforward guilty plea,” Silvert said. “I never for a minute imagined it would become this.”

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