- Associated Press - Monday, October 31, 2016

HONOLULU (AP) - A former Kauai police lieutenant who said she stole money from the department because her family was in debt was sentenced Monday to 60 weekend days in jail.

Karen Kapua, who was a 16-year veteran of the Kauai Police Department, pleaded guilty in July to embezzling, stealing and misappropriating $25,000 from the department. As part of a plea deal, prosecutors agreed to dismiss other charges in the indictment, including money laundering. Even though she pleaded guilty to one event involving the theft of $25,000, she admitted doing it two other times for a total of $75,000, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lawrence Tong said.

She already paid back all of the $75,000 that she stole, said her defense attorney, Brook Hart.

In addition to the 60-day sentence, U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright imposed a $25,000 fine that must be paid by Nov. 30. Seabright will allow her to serve the incarceration three days a week. She’s expected to serve Fridays through Sundays at Honolulu Federal Detention Center.

Kapua told the judge she started stealing money in 2013 to pay down her family’s debt. She said she didn’t tell her husband about their financial problems because he was suicidal after the sudden 2011 death of their teenage daughter.

Kapua said she was also dealing with other personal issues including menopause, the death of her mother and having to care for an autistic son. She said she always planned to pay the money back from an anticipated settlement in a lawsuit for her daughter’s death.

“Therapy has been helping me cope,” she said. “I’m learning to cope.”

Quoting from Shakespeare and others about the death of a child, Hart, the defense attorney, tried to argue for no jail time. “In some ways she could not control her behavior because she was in the depths of grief,” he said.

Tong, the prosecutor, said he has sympathy for Kapua’s tragic experiences, but she committed crimes that erode the public’s trust in law enforcement. “Suffering those losses doesn’t give you a get-out-of-jail-free card,” he said.

Kapua abused her position of trust to requisition funds that were meant for undercover drug buys or vice squad equipment, he said, instead of simply canceling credit cards her two other sons were using for purchases such as trips to Las Vegas.

Tong argued for a 10-month sentence.

Seabright called it one of the saddest and most difficult cases he’s seen, noting that Kapua had been the department’s officer of the year in 2010.

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