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Former Hawaii lawmakers accused of taking bribes scheduled to enter guilty pleas

  • STAR-ADVERTISER AND COURTESY PHOTO
                                J. Kalani English and Ty Cullen are pictured.

    STAR-ADVERTISER AND COURTESY PHOTO

    J. Kalani English and Ty Cullen are pictured.

A former member of the Hawaii House of Representatives who allegedly accepted cash bribes on at least seven separate occasions in exchange for supporting and sidelining legislation on behalf of a Honolulu cesspool and wastewater company will plead guilty as part of a plea deal with the U.S. Department of Justice.

Former state Rep. Ty J.K. Cullen will be arraigned and enter a guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway at 11 a.m. Feb. 15. Retired Senate Majority Leader Jamie Kalani English is scheduled to be arraigned and enter a guilty plea as part of his arrangement with the justice department before Mollway on Feb. 15 at 10 a.m.

DOJ officials declined to discuss the details of English and Cullen’s plea deal until they are entered into the record Feb. 15. It is not clear how or if English and Cullen are cooperating with the ongoing DOJ probe that is focused on allegations of public corruption in Hawaii that date to at least 2014.

Both are charged with “honest services wire fraud” for failing to report the alleged bribes on their electronic legislative gift disclosure reports. Lawmakers are required to disclose gifts exceeding $200, in total or aggregate.

On Tuesday Cullen, former vice chairman of the House Committee on Finance and English were charged by the DOJ with accepting cash, Las Vegas hotel rooms, dinners and casino chips in New Orleans in exchange for introducing measures, killing legislation and relaying intelligence to a Hawaii industrial services company and its principal from about 2014 through 2021, according to documents filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court.

They remain free pending their initial appearance Feb. 15.

Cullen also most recently served on the House Pandemic and Disaster Preparedness Committee and the Government Reform Committee. He represented Royal Kunia, Waipahu and Makakilo. English represented Hana, East and Upcountry Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kahoolawe.

Cullen is accused of taking $23,000 in bribes from 2019 to 2020 from “Person A” to work on legislation to benefit Person A’s wastewater and sewage treatment company.

English solicited money, dinners and lodging from Person A in exchange for his work on Person A’s behalf, according to court documents. He did not disclose hotel rooms allegedly provided to him in June 2019 at a cost of $1,805, the $500 in cash he accepted in June 2019, $1,000 in cash provided to him in February 2020 or $10,000 he took in March 2020, according to the felony information.

Person A is cooperating with DOJ’s ongoing investigation and owns and operates a wastewater management business that has done work for every county, the state and federal government.

Cullen resigned Tuesday shortly before U.S. Attorney Clare Connors announced the filing of felony information charging documents against Cullen and English. English retired in April to deal with the impact of long haul COVID-19, he said at the time.

English’s attorney released a statement Tuesday saying his client was remorseful, will accept a plea deal and take responsibility for his actions.

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