HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – The federal drug trial against Big Island doctor Rudy Puana, which includes allegations of drug parties and illegal prescriptions related to the Kealoha scandal, began Thursday with his ex-wife called as the first witness. .
Lynn Puana, also a doctor, read and interpreted images of prescriptions and medical notes that the government displayed on a screen for the jury of more than 12 locums to see. The prescriptions were for hundreds of opioid pills to various people the Puanas were close to.
Among them: Katherine Kealoha, Puana’s sister. The disgraced former city attorney is also expected to testify against him.
Puana pointed out that some of the notes in the patient records bore her signature, but she said the signature was forged. She said the signatures were from her ex-husband.
In its opening statements, the government described Dr. Rudy Puana as the leader of a drug ring, prescribing large quantities of pills and trading pills for cocaine.
“A license to deal,” is how Special Prosecutor Michael Wheat put it.
Ken Lawson, a professor at the University of Hawaii School of Law, said opening statements are key to helping jurors understand the case — and the allegations prosecutors plan to present.
“Once we’ve heard the opening statements, we’ve taken sides now and await that evidence to support the position we’ve taken,” Lawson said.
The defense said Puana wrote legitimate prescriptions to people who were in pain and in need.
The defense team, when cross-examining Lynn Puana, worked to show that not enough was known about painkiller addiction when studying pain management.
Another witness expected at the bar: Christopher McKinney, author and close friend of the Puana family. McKinney was seen leaving the courthouse on Thursday in a sign he may be next to testify.
McKinney signed an immunity agreement with the government.
Another group receiving large amounts of prescription pills was a family of four: Joshua DeRego, Keith DeRego, Elena Rodriguez and Tara Case.
The government said the drug money was used to pay for their children’s tuition in private schools. Evidentiary records show receipts totaling more than $70,000 to the school.
Many more exhibits will be shown in the coming weeks with long lists of drug and gun images.
Legal experts say the government appears to have overwhelming evidence.
“Few cases make it to trial in the federal system, so it’s really nice to see Mr. Puana coming in. If he thinks he is not guilty, he must be tried,” said lawyer Victor Bakke.
The trial resumes Friday with Lynn Puana back on the stand.
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