Big Island firefighter accused of lying is placed on paid leave

HILO (AP) — A Big Island firefighter has been placed on paid leave after he was accused of lying to a federal grand jury about his relationship with a Honolulu deputy prosecutor in the fraud and corruption case against her and her husband.

Jesse Ebersole was charged Monday in federal court in Honolulu with felony conspiracy to obstruct, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported .

Prosecutor Katherine Kealoha and former Honolulu Police Chief Louis Kealoha are awaiting federal trials on bank fraud and corruption allegations. Katherine Kealoha instructed Ebersole to lie to the grand jury last year about their relationship, which involved hotel stays and airline tickets funded with stolen money, according to court documents.

Ebersole, 49, was promoted in April to battalion chief of the fire department’s Emergency Medical Services Bureau. Ebersole “was directly involved with the saving of many lives” during his 25-year career, Hawaii Fire Chief Darren Rosario said.

“As this incident involves federal charges and an open investigation, there will be no further comment from my office,” Rosario said.

Ebersole has been “an outstanding county employee,” Big Island Mayor Harry Kim said. Following the federal charge, Kim directed the human resources department to coordinate with the fire department “to ensure we do what is right by law,” he said.

Ebersole is scheduled to appear in court in Honolulu on Thursday for a waiver of indictment and to enter a plea, according to court records.

“He’s going to enter a plea,” said Don Wilkerson, Ebersole’s attorney. He declined to comment further.

Ebersole and Katherine Kealoha had “maintained an intimate personal relationship,” and she spent more than $20,000 on it with funds stolen from her grandmother and from a second mortgage she and her husband fraudulently obtained, according to court documents.

Katherine Kealoha met with the firefighter before he testified and “would coach Ebersole on how to falsely respond to questions posed to him in the grand jury,” according to the documents.