Honolulu To Pay $2.85 Million In Kealoha Corruption Lawsuit

The city has been fighting the lawsuit brought by family members of Katherine Kealoha since 2016.

Gerard Puana and his late mother’s estate, Florence Puana, are to receive a $2.85 million settlement from the city and county of Honolulu, bringing a year-long legal battle to a close, plaintiffs’ attorneys said Wednesday.

The Puanas sued the county in 2016 after being harassed by former Honolulu Assistant District Attorney Katherine Kealoha. Gerard is Kealoha’s uncle and Florence was her grandmother.

Kealoha was convicted in 2019 of attempting to frame her uncle for the crime of stealing her mailbox and collaborating with the police — including her husband, former Police Commissioner Louis Kealoha — to get the job done. Both Kealohas are serving time in federal prison for this conspiracy, as well as other crimes to which they have pleaded guilty.

Gerard Puana arrives at District Court, which is part of the Kealoha Trial.  June 6, 2019
Gerard Puana was charged with stealing his niece’s mailbox – a crime he did not commit. (Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2019)

The case was due to go to court in the coming weeks but was settled on Wednesday instead.

Gerard Puana’s attorney, Eric Seitz, said in an interview that the settlement will give the Puana family some degree of financial freedom, but the journey to get there is “painful.”

“Gerard has had the most disgusting experience imaginable for 15 years,” he said. “You can’t give that back to him. He was arrested, he was thrown in jail, he was subjected to horrific surveillance, he had to stand trial over the mailbox case and face the prospect of going back to jail if things didn’t turn out right.”

Closing the case came too late for Florence Puana. She died in 2020 at the age of 100. But Seitz said the money will help restore funds Kealoha took from her under a reverse mortgage scheme. In the 2019 letterbox trial, the jury found that Kealoha framed Puana to prevent him from exposing this scheme.

Ian Scheuring, a spokesman for the Honolulu Mayor’s Office, said the settlement will now go to the Honolulu City Council for approval.

“Until the Honolulu City Council approves the settlement agreement, the city will decline the opportunity to comment further on the case,” he said in a statement.

Seitz, who has sued the county multiple times for police misconduct, said he wants the city to acknowledge there were systemic issues that made the Kealoha debacle possible.

“The level of corruption underlying this case is appalling,” he said. “I want them to take steps to prevent something like this from happening again.”

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