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Honolulu’s top prosecutor takes leave amid federal probe

March 8, 2019
FILE - In this March 2, 2016 file photo, Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro talks to The Associated Press in Honolulu. Honolulu's top prosecutor is taking a leave of absence amid a federal investigation. Kaneshiro said in a statement his leave takes effect Thursday, March 7, 2019. He says Dwight Nadamoto will be acting prosecuting attorney. Hawaii Attorney General Clare Connors last month asked the state's highest court to suspend Kaneshiro because he's an investigation target. (AP Photo/Cathy Bussewitz, File)

HONOLULU (AP) — Honolulu’s top prosecutor said Thursday he would take a leave of absence from his office, a move that comes after he has been made a target of a federal corruption investigation.

Keith Kaneshiro said in a statement he was acting to “avoid further distraction” and ensure the “orderly administration of justice.” He said Dwight Nadamoto would serve as acting prosecuting attorney.

Hawaii Attorney General Clare Connors welcomed Kaneshiro’s announcement, saying it was the right thing for him to do.

Last month Connors asked the state’s highest court to suspend Kaneshiro because he’s an investigation target. She said Kaneshiro’s initial refusal to take leave subjected cases pursued by his office to potential ethical and legal challenges.

It’s not clear what Kaneshiro is being investigated for, but his attorney Bill McCorriston confirmed that Kaneshiro received a letter saying he was a target of the investigation.

The probe has already resulted in indictments against former Kaneshiro deputy Katherine Kealoha, her husband former Honolulu police chief Louis Kealoha and current and former officers.

The Kealohas are scheduled to go to trial this year on charges that they used police resources to frame her uncle in an attempt to discredit him in a family financial dispute. They also face a second trial on charges they bilked banks, relatives and others to fund their lavish lifestyle.

Katherine Kealoha and her pain physician brother, Dr. Rudolph Puana, have separately been indicted on charges they dealt opioids and used her position as a prosecutor to hide their crimes. The siblings have pleaded not guilty.

Corporation Counsel Donna Leong, Honolulu’s chief legal officer, took a leave of absence after receiving a target letter linked to the corruption investigation. Chasid Sapolu, Honolulu’s second-highest-ranking prosecutor, in December announced he would go on leave after receiving a subject letter, which is less serious than a target letter.