- Associated Press - Friday, January 6, 2017

HONOLULU (AP) - Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha on Friday agreed to retire amid a federal investigation of civil rights abuses and corruption.

Police Commission Chairman Max Sword announced the retirement after commission members met twice this week behind closed doors to discuss Kealoha’s employment status.

Details of Kealoha’s retirement agreement after more than 30 years of service are being worked out, Sword said.

“He’s leaving under a cloud and he’s not happy about that,” said Kealoha’s attorney, Myles Breiner, noting that Kealoha will receive his full retirement benefits.

Kealoha agreed to “gracefully retire” to save the department embarrassment and to avoid a battle with the commission, Breiner said: “He’s done nothing wrong. That target letter prompted everyone to turn against him.”

Kealoha, who earns $190,408 annually, went on paid leave last month after receiving an FBI target letter. A federal grand jury is looking into allegations of civil rights abuses and corruption at the department.

The investigation began after a theft case involving Kealoha’s home mailbox. Gerard Puana, the uncle of Kealoha’s city prosecutor wife, Katherine Kealoha, went on trial for the alleged theft. But the case ended in a mistrial after Louis Kealoha made inappropriate comments about Puana’s criminal past. The charge was later dismissed.

Federal public defender Alexander Silvert, who represented Puana, said the Kealohas framed his client in an attempt to discredit him in a lawsuit Puana filed accusing Katherine Kealoha, a Honolulu prosecutor, of mishandling his mother’s assets. A jury later sided with Katherine Kealoha.

Last month, retired Officer Niall Silva, who had testified at Puana’s 2014 trial, pleaded guilty to falsifying documents and altering evidence.

Four other officers have received target letters from the FBI, Acting Chief Cary Okimoto has said.

Silvert said Friday it’s difficult to comment on Kealoha’s retirement without knowing settlement terms. “I’m much more interested in what I hope to be a federal prosecution in the coming weeks or months against him and others,” he said.

Kealoha’s retirement is best for allowing the department to move forward, said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell and state Sen. Will Espero.

Espero, who on Wednesday urged the commission to be more transparent about Kealoha, said ultimately the right decision was reached.

The commission will meet on Jan. 18 to approve Kealoha’s retirement agreement. “It’s my understanding that the agreement itself will be made public,” said the commission’s newest member, Steven Levinson, a retired state Supreme Court justice.

After meeting for several hours behind closed doors Wednesday, Sword said the commission needed more time and information before reaching a decision. They continued their closed door talks for about an hour Friday. The commission didn’t know until Friday morning that retirement was an option Kealoha would seriously entertain, Levinson said.

Kealoha’s retirement will bring closure, Levinson said, so that “the dispute won’t range on in the courts, possibly for years.”

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