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Taxpayer-funded lawyer wants out of Hawaii corruption case

July 3, 2019
FILE - In this June 25, 2019, file photo, former Honolulu police chief Louis Kealoha, right, and his wife, former deputy prosecutor Katherine Kealoha, walk out of federal court in Honolulu. A defense attorney filed a motion Tuesday, July 2, 2019, asking to withdraw as attorney for Katherine Kealoha, a former Honolulu prosecutor convicted of conspiracy. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones, File)

HONOLULU (AP) — A defense attorney who was appointed to represent a former Honolulu prosecutor convicted of conspiracy filed a motion Tuesday to part ways with her client.

Cynthia Kagiwada asked to withdraw as an attorney for Katherine Kealoha, who was convicted last week along with her retired police chief husband Louis Kealoha in a plot to frame her uncle.

Prosecutors said the couple abused their power and conspired with officers to frame Gerard Puana to keep him from revealing fraud that financed the Kealohas’ lavish lifestyle.

The jury also convicted a lieutenant and an officer of conspiracy.

“There appears to be an irretrievable breakdown in the attorney-client relationship, which cannot be reconciled,” Kagiwada wrote in her motion Tuesday. She couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Kealoha has been at the Honolulu Federal Detention Center since Friday, when U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright ordered her into custody because of concerns she could try to obstruct justice before her sentencing.

Seabright appointed taxpayer-funded attorneys to represent the Kealohas after they said they couldn’t afford to hire their own defense lawyers.

Kagiwada also filed motions to withdraw as Kealoha’s attorney in two other upcoming trials — one for allegations that she bilked banks, relatives and children whose trusts she controlled and another for an indictment accusing her of dealing opioids with her pain physician brother and using her position as a prosecutor to protect him.

Kenneth Lawson, who teaches legal courses at the University of Hawaii law school including professional responsibility, said it’s interesting that one of the Hawaii professional conduct rules Kagiwada cited as a basis for her motion has to do with a client insisting on action that the lawyer considers repugnant or which the lawyer has a fundamental disagreement.

Kagiwada said in her motion that she would be willing to provide details privately to a judge.

Toward the end of the conspiracy trial, an additional lawyer stepped in to help represent Katherine Kealoha. Earle Partington said her family is paying him.

He said Tuesday he will continue to represent her.

“Apparently Cynthia just decided to bail out,” he said, adding that it wasn’t Kealoha’s choice. “She knows Katherine isn’t happy with her. Or she wouldn’t have hired me if she was.”

Partington said he visited Kealoha over the weekend and she is doing better than expected.

“She was in good spirits, considering the circumstances,” Partington said, noting she has been isolated for her safety.

“They’re not going to put an ex-prosecutor in with other inmates,” he said.

Arrangements are being made for Kealoha to receive treatment for cancer while incarcerated, Partington said.

Seabright scheduled a July 11 court hearing for Kagiwada’s motion.

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