HONOLULU (KHON2) — Former state lawmaker, Jamie Kalani English, was sentenced to 40 months and three years probation for his role in wire fraud.
A federal judge has also ordered English to pay a $100,000 fine.
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English pleaded guilty to Honest Services Wire Fraud in February, and told the judge that he accepted bribes of cash and other gifts. In exchange, legislation was drafted on cesspool and wastewater policy to help a businessman, referred to in court documents as Person A, who sources have identified as Milton Choy.
Court records say that included Choy handing English $5,000 while in a car. FBI agents then stopped them and records say English tried to hide the money under the floor mat.
Lawmakers are also supposed to report any gifts valued at more than $200. When asked why he didn’t report the gifts from Person A, English said, “This didn’t come in to my office, so it wasn’t on the list.”
The former Senate Majority Leader had nothing to say when asked to comment. Inside the courtroom, English expressed remorse in front of the judge.
He said, “I ask myself continually why I did what I did. With deep remorse I have to look at this.”
“The court, I think, gave the best sentence the court could under the circumstances and recognizing the cooperation. But yeah, I think it sends a pretty effective message,” said Kenneth Sorenson, assistant U.S. attorney.
English accepted bribes of more than $18,000.
During the sentencing, Judge Susan Oki Mollway described English’s actions as a “Terrifying prospect that this was so normal, so natural. This was a matter of greed.”
“It was incredibly easy. He was not reticent about accepting bribes, taking money, never reluctant. Many times it was his idea. This was not an individual that was shy about taking money and performing favors for that money,” said Sorenson.
The head of Common Cause Hawaii says the sentence is appropriate.
“To show that corruption and bribery in our political process will not be tolerated. What is so disturbing is that we had to get to this place,” said Executive Director Sandy Ma.
Ma says more transparency is needed in the political process to repair the public trust.
“So that we know when bills move why they move, when bills fail why they fail, so things like this cannot happen again,” she said.
“The House of Representatives does not condone the actions taken by the former legislators. I hope this serves as a message to everyone in government that there can be no tolerance for unethical conduct,” said House Speaker Scott Saiki, in response to English’s sentencing today.
Ty Cullen, who also pleaded guilty to the same charge, is expected to be sentenced in October.
Choy, the businessman who allegedly benefitted from the scheme will also likely face federal charges, according to his attorney.