FBI serves warrant at Honolulu prosecuting attorney's office

AP News
Posted: Jan 13, 2017 11:25 PM
FBI serves warrant at Honolulu prosecuting attorney's office

HONOLULU (AP) — An FBI raid on the Honolulu prosecuting attorney's office is the latest action in a growing corruption scandal involving the chief of police and his prosecutor wife.

FBI agents served a search warrant at the downtown Honolulu office Friday morning, Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro said in a statement. The office cooperated with agents and provided the information requested in the warrant, he said.

The FBI searched servers at the office one day after a federal judge took possession of two work-related laptops belonging to the chief's wife, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported .

The raid comes as a federal grand jury is looking into corruption allegations in the Honolulu Police Department. Chief Louis Kealoha went on paid leave last month after receiving notice that he's the target of the investigation. Last week, he agreed to retire and details of his retirement agreement are being worked out.

A federal judge would have had to agree there was probable cause for a search warrant and the raid is a sign the FBI believes there's criminal activity in the prosecutor's office, said Alexander Silvert, a federal public defender who went to the FBI with allegations of civil rights abuses and corruption at the police department.

Silvert represented Gerard Puana, the uncle of Kealoha's wife Katherine, a deputy prosecutor. The Kealohas accused Puana of stealing their home mailbox. But the 2014 trial abruptly ended in a mistrial when Louis Kealoha provided improper testimony about Puana's criminal past.

The charge was later dismissed.

Silvert said the Kealohas framed Puana in an attempt to discredit him in a lawsuit Puana filed accusing Katherine Kealoha 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 trial, pleaded guilty to falsifying documents and altering evidence. Four other officers have received target letters from the FBI, Acting Police Chief Cary Okimoto has said.

Attorneys who have represented the Kealohas couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Either Kaneshiro didn't initially cooperate with agents or the FBI didn't want to risk destruction of evidence so agents sought to surprise the office with a search warrant, Silvert said.

FBI spokesman Special Agent Arnold Laanui confirmed that agents were conducting "investigative activity" at the prosecuting attorney's office but declined to provide details.

Former Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Peter Carlisle said he can't think of an FBI raid ever happening on the office before. "My reaction to this this entire situation involving Chief Kealoha, Kaneshiro and Katherine Kealoha has been an incredible black eye to law enforcement in Hawaii," said Carlisle, who was prosecuting attorney for 15 years and a deputy for 10 years.