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Ex-Maui police officer gets eight-month term for witness tampering

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    Former Maui police officer Chase Keliipaakaua is going to jail for four months for taking part in a scheme to bribe a witness against a fellow officer.

    Senior U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmor handed down the sentence Thursday.

    Keliipaakaua, 31, will begin serving his sentence next month.

    At the end of the jail term, he will be under probationlike court supervision for three years. Gillmor ordered that for the first four months, Keliipaakaua will be under electronically monitored home confinement.

    Two other former Maui police officers pleaded guilty in the case. Keliipaakaua is the first to get sentenced. The other two are Anthony Maldonado and Walter Ahuna.

    The Maui Police Department fired all three after they pleaded guilty. Maldonado will be sentenced next week. Ahuna is scheduled to be sentenced next month.

    A fourth person, Damien Kaina, Ahuna’s cousin, also pleaded guilty. U.S. District Judge Leslie E. Kobayashi sentenced Kaina, 39, Thursday to two months in jail followed by four months of home confinement. Kaina has six weeks to turn himself in to begin his jail term.

    Keliipaakaua and Kaina benefited from sentence reductions for cooperating with the government.

    The target of the witness tampering is a motorist from whom Maldonado stole $1,800 during a traffic stop in September 2015. The witness speaks little English and at the time was on crutches. Maui police arrested Maldonado after the motorist reported the theft.

    U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division lawyer Mary J. Hahn told Gillmor that Keliipaakaua advised Maldonado how to carry out a bribe to get the witness to withdraw the theft complaint and that the witness should go to the Lahaina Police Station, where Keliipaakaua would be the one to take the witness’ statement.

    Hahn told Kobayashi that Maldonado gave Kaina an envelope containing $5,000. The government said Kaina went to the witness and refused to leave unless the witness took the envelope. Kaina is at least twice the witness’ size and at the time worked as a nightclub bouncer. The witness took $1,800 and Kaina pocketed the rest. Ahuna then picked up Kaina.

    The witness never withdrew the theft complaint and instead reported the bribe attempt to police.

    By Nelson Daranciang ndaranciang@staradvertiser.com

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