Hawaii Headlines

Ex-Honolulu lieutenant asks to remain free during appeal

HONOLULU (AP) — A former Honolulu police lieutenant who is scheduled to begin serving a three-and-a-half year prison sentence next month in Hawaii’s biggest ever corruption case is asking a judge to let him remain free while he appeals his conviction.

Derek Wayne Hahn’s attorney said Wednesday that the appeal could take several years.

A jury convicted Hahn, another former police officer, a former Honolulu police chief and the ex-chief’s former prosecutor wife of conspiracy in a plot to frame a man.

Hahn helped Louis and Katherine Kealoha, the former chief and the former prosecutor, with the framing of the man to preserve the couple’s lavish lifestyle, prosecutors said.

Hahn is scheduled to surrender at a federal detention center in Oregon on June 1, but his attorney filed the motion Wednesday saying Hahn should remain free until the conclusion of his appeal.

The appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will focus on instructions to jurors before they deliberated and other issues, said Hahn’s motion by Sacramento, Calif., attorney Timothy Warriner.

“Counsel is still reviewing the record and researching possible legal issues, and therefore may file an opening brief in the 9th Circuit that raises claims of error in addition to those stated herein,” the motion said.

Hahn, who has been free on a $50,000 bond since 2017, is not likely to flee or pose a danger, the motion said.

A U.S. judge in Honolulu will consider the request at a hearing on May 25.

Louis Kealoha is scheduled to begin his seven-year sentence June 1.

Hawaii Headlines

Hawaii man sentenced to supervision over cyberstalking

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Hawaii man who pleaded guilty to cyberstalking a Utah family by sending more than 500 people to their house for unwanted services including food deliveries, plumbers and prostitutes was sentenced Thursday to three years of supervision and ordered to adhere to strict limitations on use of the internet.

Loren Okamura, 45, apologized while appearing from his home in Hawaii during a video conference hearing based out of U.S. District Court in Utah. Okamura said he was struggling with depression after his wife died when the cyberstalking occurred. He was given credit in the sentence for the nearly one year he spent in jail before being released in October 2020, several months after he accepted a plea deal.

“I would like to apologize for my actions,” Okamura said. “These events are not in my character. I’m looking to close my chapter and start a new chapter.”

Prosecutors called the case an “extreme” example of the darker and seedier side of modern technology.

Okamura’s online stalking in 2018-2019 targeted a father and his adult daughter who live in a quiet, middle-class suburb of Salt Lake City, prosecutors alleged. He sent the woman threatening messages and posted her picture and address online, authorities said. One email told the woman she should “sleep with one eye open and keep looking over her shoulder.”

The cyber harassment was “extensive and horrific,” said Karin Fojtik, a prosecutor handling the case for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Utah. She objected to loosening strict rules Okamura must follow to be able to use the internet.

Fojtik said having to get approval from his probation officer for internet use is “a small inconvenience on Mr. Okamura compared to the harassment that he imposed on the victim.”

U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups agreed while giving Okamura’s probation officers permission to adjust the internet restrictions to enable Okamura to do some of the basic things needed to function in society.

Hawaii Headlines

Ex-Hawaii CEO accused of virus loan fraud pleads not guilty


The Associated Press

HONOLULU — A former CEO of Hawaii company accused of defrauding banks of money meant to assist businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic pleaded not guilty Wednesday.

Martin Kao, who was CEO of Martin Defense Group LLC, formerly known as Navatek LLC, is charged with bank fraud and money laundering. Authorities say he defrauded banks of more than $12.8 million through the Paycheck Protection Program.

Congress authorized the program to provide emergency financial assistance through forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and other expenses.

Kao transferred more than $2 million into his own personal accounts, according to an indictment. Investigators talked to an executive and a former employee who said the company wasn’t affected by the pandemic, court documents said.

He stepped down as CEO in November, a spokeswoman said.

Authorities describe his company as a “research, engineering, design, and innovations company that specializes in novel systems for the Department of Defense and other partners in academia and other scientific fields.”

During a brief arraignment via telephone Wednesday, defense attorney Michael Green entered the not guilty plea on behalf of Kao.

Kao said he understands the nature of the charges.

Trial is scheduled for July. Green said he anticipates the trial will be postponed because the case involves “thousands of pages of discovery.”

Hawaii Headlines

Former congresswoman named to board of Honolulu rail line


The Associated Press

HONOLULU — Honolulu’s mayor on Tuesday said he would appoint former U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa to the board of the city’s rail line as the long-delayed and massively over-budget project faces a funding shortfall that could prevent construction from continuing to its original intended destination of Ala Moana Center.

Hanabusa will serve on a volunteer basis on the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation board, Mayor Rick Blangiardi told reporters at a news conference. She won’t accept a $924,000, six-year contract she was recently awarded by HART to serve as a consultant, the mayor said.

Hanabusa previously served on the board in 2015 and 2016, including part of the time as chair. She also worked on rail issues in Congress. As a congresswoman in 2012, she watched the Federal Transit Administration sign an agreement to provide the project with $1.5 billion in funding.

Blangiardi said he knows Hanabusa’s intellect, ability and knowledge of the rail project.

“This is a continuation of my promise to the people that as a mayor, I would surround myself with the smartest people, best thinkers, best doers, people who would embrace responsibility, hold themselves accountable,” Blangiardi said.

Hanabusa said the project needs to return to the point it was at in 2015 and 2016 when the public was convinced the rail line needed to be completed, even if they were “disgusted” with it.

“We have to begin with public confidence. We have to begin with people feeling that the answers will be there, it will be a transparent situation,” Hanabusa said.

She urged people not to lose sight of the goal to “get this project finished and get the people feeling like we didn’t waste their money.”

When crews broke ground in 2011, the rail line was expected to be finished by 2019 at a cost of $5.5 billion. It’s now estimated it will cost more than $10 million to build, and the interim CEO said earlier this year it faces a $3 billion budget shortfall.

The U.S. government in December gave the agency a one-year extension on a deadline to detail its plans for building the final 4-mile stretch of the rail line that has yet to be built. HART must submit the plans by the end of the year.

The state auditor in 2019 faulted low initial cost estimates, inflation, project delays and unanticipated charges for the escalating costs. Officials have also blamed construction delays and financing problems.

Blangiardi said he has “no interest” in building the line up to Middle Street — a nondescript light industrial area 4 miles short of Ala Moana — and stopping there, which critics say may be all the city can afford.

The rail line was envisioned as a 20-mile commuter line connecting Honolulu’s western suburbs with the airport, Pearl Harbor, downtown and Ala Moana Center, the state’s largest shopping center and major bus depot. It’s been promoted as a way to alleviate Honolulu’s heavy traffic jams.

Hanabusa would replace Glenn Nohara, an engineer whose term on the board expires on June 30.

Hawaii Headlines

Remains ID’d of 2 Indiana brothers killed at Pearl Harbor

La PORTE, Ind. (AP) — The remains of two Indiana brothers who were killed in the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor have been identified by U.S. military scientists.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency said Monday it had identified the remains of Navy Fire Controlman 2nd Class Harold F. Trapp, 24, and Navy Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class William H. Trapp, 23.

The brothers from La Porte in northern Indiana were assigned to the battleship USS Oklahoma on Dec. 7, 1941, when it was attacked by Japanese aircraft while moored at Pearl Harbor.

The USS Oklahoma capsized after sustaining multiple torpedo hits and 429 crewmen were killed, including the Trapp brothers.

In 2015, the remains of unidentified USS Oklahoma serviceman were exhumed from the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu. The DPPA said military scientists identified the Trapp brothers’ remains last November after analyzing dental, anthropological and genetic evidence.

The Trapp brothers will be reburied in Honolulu on June 15, at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as the Punchbowl, nearly 80 years after their deaths in the surprise attack that launched the United States into World War II.

The brothers’ names are among the names recorded at the Courts of the Missing at the Punchbowl. A rosette will be placed next to their names to indicate they have been accounted for.

Hawaii Headlines

Ex-Honolulu chief to visit family before heading to prison


The Associated Press

HONOLULU — A U.S. judge is allowing a former Honolulu police chief convicted in a corruption case to meet with family and friends in Washington state before he begins serving a seven-year prison sentence in Oregon.

U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright on Monday approved Louis Kealoha’s travel request. Kealoha will travel to the Seattle area on May 29 and then drive to the federal correctional facility in Sheridan, Oregon, where he will begin his sentence on June 1, said his attorney Rustam Barbee.

In March, Seabright delayed Kealoha’s surrender date to allow him time to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Kealoha received his second shot of the Pfizer vaccine about two weeks ago, Barbee said.

Kealoha and his now-estranged wife, a former high-ranking Honolulu prosecutor, were sentenced in November for using his position as chief to frame a relative for a crime he didn’t commit in Hawaii’s biggest corruption case.

Katherine Kealoha, who prosecutors said stole money from her own grandmother to support the couple’s lavish lifestyle, was sentenced to 13 years in prison. She’s incarcerated at the Honolulu Federal Detention Center.

Louis Kealoha filed for divorce after they were convicted. He will go forward with finalizing the divorce while incarcerated, Barbee said.

Hawaii Headlines

Hawaii House Speaker announces names of Mauna Kea working group


The Associated Press

HONOLULU — House Speaker Scott Saiki on Monday announced the members of a working group that’s been asked in a House resolution to develop recommendations for how to manage Mauna Kea — the Big Island mountain that’s seen conflict over the construction and operation of some of the world’s most advanced telescopes.

Three of the 15 group members were leaders of 2019 protests that blocked construction crews from reaching the mountain’s summit to build the Thirty Meter Telescope. Four members are lawmakers, including the chairperson, Rep. Mark Nakashima, a Democrat whose Hilo district includes Mauna Kea.

“My community is depending on this working group to fulfill our mission. The residents of Hawaii Island have been engaged in this discussion for several years now, and the feeling is that they would like to see the issue resolved and hopefully we can move past this,” Nakashima said at a news conference.

Opponents of the telescopes say Mauna Kea’s peak is sacred and building observatories there desecrates the site. Supporters of the telescopes say the optimal observation conditions at the summit help astronomers conduct critical research that has contributed to humanity’s understanding of gravity, black holes and other scientific concepts.

The House resolution, passed in March, requested that recommendations be submitted to the Legislature by Dec. 31.

Nakashima said he’s long supported the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope, which would be one of the world’s largest optical telescopes once it’s built. It’s being planned by a collection of California and Canadian universities along with the governments of China, India and Japan.

But he said the issue before the working group was not necessarily the telescope but rather the treatment of Native Hawaiians and cultural practices on the mountain.

Saiki selected seven members from among 58 Native Hawaiians nominated by Native Hawaiian organizations. The three protest leaders — Pualani Kanaka‘ole Kanahele, Joshua Lanakila Manguil and Noe Noe Wong-Wilson — were among these seven.

The other four are Brialyn Onodera, a mechanical engineer at the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope on Maui; Jocelyn Leialoha Doane, an advocate for preserving Native Hawaiian claims to lands owned by the deposed Hawaiian monarchy; University of Hawaii Maui College Chancellor Lui Hokoana; and Shane Palacat-Nelsen, who chairs an organization advising the Office of Mauna Kea Management.

Four organizations named representatives to the committee: the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the state Board of Land and Natural Resources, the University of Hawaii Board of Regents and Maunakea Observatories.

Saiki said he wants the committee to develop a proposal to address how the mountain can be better managed. He also wants the working group to address whether the state should issue a new master lease to the University of Hawaii for land at the summit that hosts about a dozen existing observatories and would also host the Thirty Meter Telescope if it’s built there.

The university’s current lease for the summit expires in 2033.

Hawaii Headlines

University of Hawaii graduate assistants sue to unionize

HONOLULU (AP) — University of Hawaii graduate assistants have sued for the right unionize and bargain for better pay and working conditions.

Three graduate students and Academic Labor United, which represents graduate assistants, filed the lawsuit Saturday against the Board of Regents, the Hawaii Labor Relations Board and the state of Hawaii, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

Graduate assistants perform research, teach classes, hold office hours and grade student work while earning their own advanced degrees.

The state constitution gives public employees the right to organize and bargain collectively. But the Hawaii Labor Relations Board determined in 1972 that graduate assistants are not public employees, and so they may not join faculty or staff unions.

Numerous bills have been introduced at the Legislature to overrule the board’s decision, but none has become law.

“It’s important for our community to know that we didn’t go into this process of suing the state unthoughtfully or uncritically,” said Alex Miller, who chairs Academic Labor United. “We did this after a really long struggle to try to work with the state to make this happen.”

The Labor Board declined to comment on the lawsuit. The University of Hawaii said it could not comment directly on pending litigation.

University spokesman Dan Meisenzahl said that the university has worked to address issues raised by graduate assistants and will continue to do so.

The university has opposed legislation giving graduate assistants collective bargaining rights because it considers them to be students first and employees second, Meisenzahl said. The school questions whether unionizing would result in a financial benefit to students, he said.

Minimum pay is set at $18,930 for a nine-month position and $22,140 for 11 months, but many graduate assistants earn more. Graduate assistants who are full-time students are exempt from paying Federal Insurance Contribution Act taxes which fund Medicare and Social Security.

They also receive tuition waivers.

There are more than 1,200 graduate assistants at the University of Hawaii. About 350 have signed membership cards with Academic Labor United.

Hawaii Headlines

Mom who gave birth on flight didn’t know she was pregnant


The Associated Press

HONOLULU — Lavinia “Lavi” Mounga had no idea a baby was coming when she went into labor on a flight from her home in Utah to Honolulu last week.

“I just didn’t know I was pregnant, and then this guy just came out of nowhere,” Mounga said during a video interview with Hawaii Pacific Health.

The baby boy, Raymond Mounga, arrived early at just 29 weeks while mom was traveling to Hawaii for vacation with her family.

Dr. Dale Glenn, a Hawaii Pacific Health family medicine physician, along with Lani Bamfield, Amanda Beeding and Mimi Ho — neonatal intensive care unit nurses from North Kansas City Hospital — were also on the plane and helped the new mother and baby.

“Yeah, just overwhelming and just nice that there was three NICU nurses on the plane and a doctor that were able to help stabilize him and make sure that he was OK,” Mounga said.

When deciding on a name, Mounga’s father suggested “Glenn,” in honor of the doctor who helped her during the flight.

“Names are pretty important in our culture,” said Mounga, who is Tongan. “I didn’t really want to name him Glenn.”

Instead she asked Dr. Glenn, who gave his adopted children Hawaiian middle names, for a suggestion. He offered “Kaimana,” which is now one of the boy’s middle names.

The child will have to stay in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit he is full term, about another 10 weeks, Mounga said.

“The aloha spirit is definitely felt here,” she said about the care she has received in Hawaii.

“It’s very different from the mainland,” Mounga said. “It just feels comforting, and everyone is willing to help.”

Hawaii Headlines

Father of girl pleads no contest in case of starvation

HILO (AP) — The father of a 9-year-old Hawaii girl who starved to death pleaded no contest to manslaughter.

Kevin Lehano’s plea to a reduced charge is part of a deal with prosecutors, Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Thursday.

Lehano, his wife and his mother-in-law were indicted on second-degree murder charges for the 2016 starvation death of Shaelynn Lehano-Stone.

A judge last month sentenced the girl’s mother, Tiffany Stone, to 10 years probation. She pleaded no contest manslaughter.

Her mother — the girl’s grandmother — pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder. Henrietta Stone has a hearing scheduled for Friday on a court-ordered mental examination. She remains jailed in lieu of $100,000 bail.

Henrietta Stone was the girl’s legal guardian and had pulled her out of Hilo Union Elementary School to be home-schooled, the newspaper reported.

After a 911 call, police found her at Henrietta Stone’s apartment unconscious on June 28, 2016. She died later that day.

Lehano faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced.

His attorney Sherilyn Tavares said Lehano will seek probation. She asked that Lehano be released without bail pending his sentencing in order to participate in preparing a pre-sentence report.

She said it’s been difficult to meet with her client at the Big Island correctional center where he’s been held on $100,000 bail.

“Numerous appointments had to be canceled, based on things like no adequate space to meet because of construction that is happening at the facility, and different portions of (the jail) on lockdown and quarantine due to COVID restrictions,” Tavares said.

Releasing him would allow him to show he’s not a danger to the community, she said.

Deputy Prosecutor Haaheo Kahoohalahala objected to releasing Lehano without posting bail.