Judge sends former Hawaii Senate majority leader to prison for wire fraud

Former Hawaii Senate majority leader Jamie Kalani English will spend 40 months in prison and pay a fine of more than $100,000 for his role in a bribery scheme, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Hawaii.

English and former state representative Ty Cullen pleaded guilty to wire fraud in February. Cullen will be sentenced in October per counsel's request, according to court documents.

The men took bribes in exchange for their votes in the Legislature. English received $10,000 in March of 2020 and $5,000 from someone identified as "Person A" in court documents. He also accepted $1,000, a hotel room valued at $1,805 and $500 to take his family out to dinner, according to court documents.

"As we stated when recommending a term of imprisonment, English, as a prominent leader in the State Senate, shoulders significant responsibility for any deficit of confidence in our public officials," said U.S. Attorney Clare E. Connors in a news release. "He criminally abused the power of his official position to serve his personal interests rather than the people of Hawaii, which is misconduct the federal government will prosecute in order to hold elected officials accountable."

Judge Susan Oki Mollway said it was a "terrifying prospect" that English accepted a bribe as if it was normal, according to the news release.

Cullen received three $5,000 payments, a $2,000 payment, a $3,000 payment and a $10,000 payment between September 2019 to October 2021, according to the court records.

The arrests prompted state lawmakers to pass a bill prohibiting fundraising during the legislative session. The bill is awaiting Gov. David Ige's signature.

Lawmakers also created the Commission to Improve Standards of Conduct through a House resolution. The commission is holding a series of meetings and will file a final report with the house on Dec. 2.

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