Category Archives: Crime

Civil lawsuit poses additional problems for police chief and wife

The drawn out family dispute involving Honolulu’s police chief and his prosecutor wife took a big turn this week when an HPD officer involved in the case entered into a plea agreement on federal felony charges and agreed to testify against the couple, and a federal civil lawsuit filed by Katherine Kealoha’s uncle brought additional allegations to the public record.

Since the lawsuit was first reported, I’ve been reading the news stories to find out what attorney had filed the case against the chief and his wife.

As far as I can tell, Civil Beat’s Nick Grube was the only one to report that the case was filed by Honolulu attorney Eric Seitz. Seeing Seitz on the case can’t be good news for the Kealoha’s. He’s an excellent attorney who has a track record in high profile cases like this involving individual rights.

Listed on the complaint along with Seitz are attorneys Della Au Belatti and Sarah Devine. Belatti, of course, is a member of the State House of Representatives elected from District 24, which includes parts of Manoa, McCully, and Makino. She chairs the House Committee on Health, and is also a member of the Judiciary committee. Define, according to her LinkedIn profile, has a speciality in federal civil rights cases.

Click here to read the civil complaint filed against Katherine and Louis Kealoha, courtesy of KHNL.

The complaint is definitely worth reading.

More “target letters” sent by feds in police chief’s case

Hawaii News Now reported last night that the federal investigation of Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha and his wife has taken another step forward (“More officers facing charges in federal investigation of HPD chief, wife“).

According to HNN:

According to sources, federal “target letters” have gone out to several people connected to the chief and his wife, Katherine Kealoha.

“When you become a target, you’re being told that you’ve committed a crime, and they’re investigating you and they want you to come in and talk to them,” said attorney William Harrison, represents one of those who received a target letter.

“It’s very serious,” he said, adding that he’s made contact with the federal prosecutor and the FBI agents handling the case.

Here a link to a sample “target letter.”

The sample letter says, in part:

We advise you that the Grand Jury is conducting an investigation of possible violations of federal criminal laws involving, but not necessarily limited to *. You are advised that the destruction or alteration of any document required to be produced before the grand jury constitutes serious violation of federal law, including but not limited to Obstruction of Justice.

You are advised that you are a target of the Grand Jury’s investigation. You may refuse to answer any question if a truthful answer to the question would tend to incriminate you. Anything that you do or say may be used against you in a subsequent legal proceeding.

An online search turns up lots of information about target letters.

One site warns:

“A “target letter” is just what it implies: You are likely going to be indicted, and you better act accordingly.

Another site explains that there are different levels of such letters, and the recipient might be either a “subject” or a “target”.

A grand jury subject is the gray area between a witness and a target. The United States Attorneys’ Manual defines a subject as “a person whose conduct is within the scope of the grand jury’s investigation.” It means that the government is not actively seeking your indictment but that the government may try to indict you in the future because you engaged in conduct connected to what the grand jury is investigating. Basically, the government has not made up its mind about you. You might be in trouble or you might not.

A grand jury target is someone who is likely to be indicted. According to the United States Attorney’s Manual, a target “is a person as to whom the prosecutor or the grand jury has substantial evidence linking him or her to the commission of a crime and who, in the judgment of the prosecutor, is a putative defendant.” This is the most serious category, and it means you are in serious trouble. The most likely outcome is that you will be indicted.

It now seems very clear that this grand jury investigation isn’t going away, and indictments seem likely.

It’s creating more tricky terrain for Mayor Kirk Caldwell just two months before the election.

Subcontractor on state prison plan has history of fraud, abuse

Don’t miss today’s Civil Beat story about Louis Berger, the New Jersey consulting firm hired to study the replacement of the Hawaii Community Correctional Center on Dillingham Boulevard (“Hawaii Prison Contractor Was Convicted Of Fraud And Bribery“).

Check it out. Remember, no more firewall.

The story’s headline just hints at the long list of prior violations by the company selected for the job.

According to Civil Beat, “Architects Hawaii…was awarded a $5 million contract to craft a comprehensive blueprint — complete with proposed designs and potential sites — for the new OCCC.”

And Architects Hawaii, in turn, hired Louis Berger as its subcontractor to do a substantial amount of the actual work.

The problem is that Louis Berger, both the firm and several of its former officers, have been found to have defrauded the federal government of millions in a series of cases over the past decade, most involving overseas work.

And because Berger is a subcontractor to Architects Hawaii, there is little information about its work available and little the state can do about it.

So that’s one problem, spelled out in gory detail by Civil Beat.

But there’s another fundamental problem.

The Public Safety contract was apparently awarded, including crafting “a comprehensive blueprint” for a new prison system, at the same time that a legislatively-mandated task force is meeting to study “effective incarceration policies in Hawaii and other jurisdictions, and suggesting improvements for Hawaii’s correctional system, including recommendations for designs of future correctional facilities.”

It looks like the administration is simply ignoring the legislature’s attempt to take a broader look at the prison system and its needs before proceeding towards construction. Instead of holding off to see what the task force advises, and which (if any) of its recommendations the legislature wants to pursue, Public Safety is launching on its own.

Anyway, good work by CB writer, Rui Kaneya.

Great investigative series on sexual abuse by doctors

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has just published a great investigative series, Doctors & Sex Abuse.

The lead article, “License to Betray“, appeared July 8.

Here’s the newspaper’s description of how the project got started.

As is often the case with investigative reporting, this series in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution grew out of other work. Reporter Danny Robbins was examining orders by the Georgia Composite Medical Board for his 2015 stories on prison medical care. In doing so, he saw orders allowing doctors to continue practicing after a finding that they had sexually violated patients.

He compiled those orders, discovering about 70 cases clearly involving sexual misconduct. And in about two-thirds of those cases, he was shocked to find, doctors either didn’t lose their licenses or were reinstated after being sanctioned. That included doctors who had repeatedly crossed the line with patients.

To see if Georgia was an exception, the AJC hired a legal researcher to study laws governing medical practices in every state, as reporters gathered studies and looked for cases around the country, compiled from news reports and other public sources. That work raised questions about the pervasiveness of doctor sexual misconduct. The research, and periodic scrutiny from other news organizations, also suggested that doctors were treated differently from other sexual offenders.

The series is a real eye-opener.

The state-by-state guide cites a single case in Hawaii. Robert McCormick Browne was a psychiatrist at Kamehameha Schools who is accused of molesting dozens of boys between 1947 and 1985. He committed suicide 25 years ago when the allegations became public.

The newspaper notes one “key fact” about Hawaii’s disciplinary system.

The state only keeps disciplinary information on its website for five years, one of the most limited periods in the nation.

Just another area in which Hawaii shortchanges the public when it comes to information access.