HONOLULU (KHON2) — The attorneys for J. Kalani English and Ty Cullen said they are cooperating with federal investigators and will plead guilty to the charge of honest services wire fraud, not bribery.
The former lawmakers are accused of accepting thousands of dollars in bribes. The question now is whether their cooperation will lead to others being charged with a crime.
Federal investigators said English and Cullen took bribes with a combined total of more than $40,000 in cash as well as Las Vegas hotel rooms and chips from a casino in New Orleans. They were never arrested and were charged by information, which legal experts say usually means they’ve been cooperating with prosecutors.
“They’re providing historical information to provide government data and facts regarding the charges that they’re facing, or they have set up colleagues, either other legislators, or city council people, or other lawmakers,” said defense attorney Megan Kau, who is not involved in the case.
Experts said the feds could have charged English and Cullen with bribery which carries a stiffer sentence. While prosecutors said the former lawmakers could face up to 20 years in prison, experts say they might not serve any time at all.
“This is a low amount of money under the federal guidelines. So the guidelines, in this case, are not very high at all. In fact, I would not be surprised if they’re in the probation range,” said Ali Silvert, a former federal public defender.
Legislative leaders said they are looking at making changes to help prevent this from happening again.
“This incident does cast a shadow upon all of our work and I know now that everything we do would be and should be heavily scrutinized,” said House Speaker Scott Saiki.
He said the House is also reviewing Cullen’s voting record on bills.
“We have begun to look at that, we’ve also looked at bills that were introduced this year, so we’re trying to piece things together,” said Saiki.
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Senate President Ron Kouchi sent a statement that stated, “The events that unfolded yesterday were surprising and unfortunate and casts a pall over the legislature. We must rededicate ourselves and work to rebuild the public’s trust in government.”