UPDATED 4:30 p.m.:
Kauai County Councilman Arthur Brun, the alleged ringleader of a drug trafficking organization on Kauai with alleged ties to a known prison gang, pleaded not guilty this afternoon in federal court to charges of conspiracy to methamphetamine trafficking.
Brun, wearing a white jumpsuit, was shackled and chained and sat in a wheelchair before U.S. Magistrate Judge Rom Trader for the 2:30 p.m. arraignment and plea hearing today.
Seven fellow defendants pleaded not guilty to charges in a Feb. 13 indictment naming a total of 12 defendants involved in the drug trafficking ring, which Kauai police chief said has supplied a significant amount of meth to the island.
Brun’s charges include assaulting, resisting and impeding law enforcement officers; tampering with a witness, victim or an informant; intimidation or force against a witness; and conspiracy to possess firearms and ammunition as felons.
Brun’s lawyer, Rustam Barbee, said his client was using a wheelchair because he sustained injuries to his right arm and right knee in a car accident in February.
A detention hearing for the eight is set for Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. before Magistrate Judge Wes Porter.
Defendant Orlando Manguchei, Brun’s alleged gunman, was notably absent from the 2:30 p.m. hearing. His arraignment and plea was rescheduled for 1:30 p.m. Monday before Porter.
Three other defendants, Sheena Millare, Efren Yanos and Kirsten Ayau, were released on a $25,000 unsecured bond.
Authorities held a news conference today to address federal charges against Kauai County Councilman Arthur Brun, who allegedly led a drug trafficking ring and conspired with 11 others to distribute methamphetamine and commit other crimes on Kauai.
“Today’s charges sends a very clear message to those who hold a position of trust in Hawaii, and that message is you are not above the law. Neither position nor privilege will shield you from the accountability that justice requires,” said U.S. Attorney Kenji Price for the District of Hawaii.
A federal indictment unsealed Thursday alleges Brun led a drug trafficking ring that distributed “substantial amounts of methamphetamine” on Kauai.
The indictment named the 11 other people also charged in the case who authorities alleged to have conspired with Brun as Maluelue Umu, a leader of the United Samoan Organization (USO), described as a gang that operates both inside and outside of the prison system; Kelvin Kauwila Kai; Steven Keliikuli; Kaniu Huihui; Sheena Millare; Efren Yanos; Kirsten Makanoe Ayau; Orlando Manguchei; Robby Silva; Haidee Sueyasu; and Phrystal Bacio.
Brun is serving his second term with the Kauai County Council where he serves as vice chairman of the Public Safety and Human Services Committee.
“Arthur Brun is a politician who led a drug trafficking organization in the very community he was elected to represent,” Price said.
Kauai police and federal agents arrested Brun and 10 others Thursday. Manguchei was already in federal custody serving a sentence for violating the terms of supervised release.
Brun and the 11 other defendants are scheduled to appear at their arraignments at Honolulu federal court this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Rom Trader.
The indictment alleges Brun and others conspired to distribute methamphetamine on Kauai from at least June 2019 to January.
Brun faces the most charges among the defendants in the drug trafficking case. Among the 10 charges against him include obstruction of justice through evidence tampering and witness tampering, conspiracy to possess a firearm and ammunition, and assault of a federal law enforcement officer.
The assault, which occurred Oct. 29, involved a police officer who was working with federal agents at the time. Authorities alleged Brun assaulted the officer during a traffic stop in an effort to conceal methamphetamine he had in his possession.
When the officer asked Brun to exit the vehicle, Brun sped off, injuring the police officer, who had his hand and shoulder in the car as he tried to remove the keys from the ignition, Price said.
Brun led police on a high-speed chase at which time he thew a backpack containing approximately one pound of methamphetamine out of the car, he added.
Police recovered the methamphetamine.
Price noted that the indictment contains allegations against Brun and others and that “every defendant who is charged in this case is innocent until proven guilty.”