Jury Selection Has Begun In High Profile Corruption Case

May 13, 2019

FILE -- Jury selection begins this week in the case involving former Honolulu police chief Louis Kealoha and his ex-prosecutor wife, Katherine Kealoha.
Credit Cory Lum / Civil Beat

Jury selection has begun in a closely watched corruption scandal involving the highest levels of Honolulu law enforcement.

Because of the intense publicity surrounding the case, 400 prospective jurors are needed for the initial phase of jury selection Monday.

The judge was concerned the U.S. courthouse in downtown Honolulu wouldn't be able to accommodate that many people, so he reserved a room at the Neal Blaisdell Center a few miles away.

Long lines are the norm there for concerts, expos and other large events. City officials warned of possible increased traffic in the area on Monday morning because of the unusual court venue.

The closely watched scandal stars now-retired Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha and his wife Katherine Kealoha, a former city prosecutor. The couple and current and former officers are accused of abusing police resources to frame a Kealoha relative for a crime.

Prosecutors say the Kealohas framed Katherine Kealoha's uncle for stealing their home mailbox in an attempt to cover up financial fraud that supported their lavish lifestyle.

Hundreds of prospective jurors are necessary in a case that attracted intense publicity.

"Other than the different location, the court will conduct business at this session identically to a session at the court's normal courtroom and in accordance with the Sixth Amendment right to a public trial," U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright said in a March order designating the center as the venue for initial jury selection.

The center is comprised of an arena, a concert hall and an exhibition hall. Jury selection is taking place in the Pikake Room, which was most recently the venue for Royal Hawaiian Band auditions, said Andrew Pereira, a Honolulu spokesman.

Once in the room, jurors will fill out a questionnaire. Jury selection with a vastly reduced pool of prospective jurors will resume Tuesday at the federal courthouse.

Meanwhile, U.S. prosecutors are dismissing one count in an indictment on corruption-related charges in the case against the Kealohas and two officers.

Prosecutors say it's to streamline a complex trial that's expected to last many weeks. 

Prosecutors are dropping a charge of making false statements. Other charges including conspiracy and obstruction remain.

Louis Kealoha's attorney, Rustam Barbee, says the dismissal shows a lack of confidence in the case.

Kenneth Lawson, who teaches criminal law at the University of Hawaii and isn't involved with the case, says prosecutors want to present a powerful story without confusing jurors.

Updated May 13, 1:01 p.m.