Hawaiʻi State Senate responds to guilty pleas by former Maui and Oʻahu lawmakers

Former State Rep. Ty Cullen (left) and former Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English. PC: Hawaiʻi State Legislature.

A federal court hearing was held today in which former State Senator J. Kalani English and former State Representative Ty Cullen both reportedly pleaded guilty to charges of honest services wire fraud.

Both are accused of taking bribes and receiving payment for actions involving cesspool legislation.

“As a legislative body, we are dismayed and disappointed by the events that have transpired over the past week,” according to a statement issued by the Hawaiʻi State Senate today. “The egregious actions of former Senator English and former Representative Cullen have severely undermined the Legislature’s credibility, destroyed public trust, and have casted a pall over the work that the Senate is trying to accomplish for the people of Hawaiʻi,” according to the statement.  

The Hawaiʻi State Senate statement says the actions “are not reflective of the values and standards” that the body “strives to uphold.”

The Senate reports it will continue to take the necessary actions to increase transparency, combat corruption and expand ethics training to all members and staff. 

“Let us be clear – we condemn the actions of former Senator English and former Representative Cullen and will work to ensure that individuals who abuse their positions of power are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” the statement read.

Earlier today, the State Senate notified media partners that effective immediately, the Senate will be allowing members of the media full access to the Senate Gallery and Press Box during floor sessions. They will be asked to show proof of vaccination or provide a negative COVID-19 test (taken no longer that 48 hours prior to visit). 

The information was shared on behalf of Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi.

The maximum statutory penalty for wire fraud is 20 years in prison. Justice officials say each could also face a fine of up to $250,000 if convicted.

Last week Richard H.S. Sing, attorney for J. Kalani English issued a statement saying English was “extremely remorseful and deeply sorry for his actions.” He went on to say that English has “cooperated fully” with the federal government.

Cullen resigned last week Tuesday, the same day information documents were announced by the US Attorney’s Office-District of Hawaiʻi. He was representing Royal Kunia, Village Park, Waipahu, Makakilo, and West Loch on Oʻahu.

English retired on May 1, 2021, citing “long-haul” effects of COVID-19. He was representing District 7, which includes Hāna, East and Upcountry Maui, Molokaʻi and Lānaʻi. 

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