Ex-Hawaii senator sentenced to 40 months for taking bribes

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HONOLULU (AP) — A former Hawaii state senator was sentenced Tuesday to 40 months in prison for accepting bribes in exchange for shaping laws during his tenure.

Former Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English, 55, in February pleaded guilty to honest services fraud, admitting he accepted bribes from a Hawaiian business owner in exchange for shaping legislation that would benefit a company , which is involved in publicly funded cesspit conversion projects.

Former Hawaii State Assemblyman Ty Cullen also pleaded guilty in a similar case. He is due to be sentenced on October 20.


English “sold the power and influence of his position as Senator and Majority Leader of the State of Hawaii to enrich himself and to abuse the trust placed in him by those to whom he was elected,” U.S. prosecutors said in a sentencing note, asking the judge to send him to three and a half years in prison.

The sentence of just over three years must send a “strong and lasting message” that corruption of elected officials will be punished, the memo said.

“I hope this serves as a message to everyone in government that there can be no tolerance for unethical behavior,” House Speaker Scott Saiki said in a statement issued after U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway English’s 40-month prison sentence.

She also fined him $100,000 and ordered that he be monitored for three years after serving his time, according to English’s attorney Richard Sing, who declined to comment on the verdict.

English must surrender to serve his sentence on August 16, Sing said.

In English’s sentencing note, Sing asked for a two-and-a-half-year sentence and said that after the former lawmaker’s arrest, he spoke openly and honestly about his interactions with the business owner, which court documents only referred to as “Person A.”

English began communicating with Person A via cesspools in 2019 and accepted cash and hotel rooms totaling about $18,000 from Person A, Sing’s memo said.

Sing also wrote that English, who represented East Maui, Molokai and Lanai, “was a compassionate and dedicated advocate for the rural communities and individuals he represented,” including native Hawaiians.

English continues to suffer from long-range COVID-19, Sing said, including sleep apnea, memory loss, lethargy and breathing problems. He cited those complaints for his resignation from the Senate last year and failed to mention that he had been arrested a few months earlier on a corruption investigation.

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