Maui News

Hawaiʻi State Senate and House leaders respond to guilty pleas by former Maui and Oʻahu lawmakers

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By Wendy Osher

Former State Rep. Ty Cullen (left) and former Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English. PC: Hawaiʻi State Legislature.

A federal court hearing was held today in which former State Senator J. Kalani English and former State Representative Ty Cullen both pleaded guilty to a single count each of honest services wire fraud.

Both are accused of taking bribes and receiving payment for actions involving cesspool legislation.

English, 55, and of Hāna, Maui, and Cullen, 41, of Waipahu, Oʻahu, entered their pleas before Senior US District
Judge Susan Oki Mollway to separate Informations charging them with accepting multiple bribes in return for performing, and agreeing to perform, official legislative acts on behalf of a Hawaiʻi businessperson.

“As a legislative body, we are dismayed and disappointed by the events that have transpired over the past week,” according to a statement issued by the Hawaiʻi State Senate today. “The egregious actions of former Senator English and former Representative Cullen have severely undermined the Legislature’s credibility, destroyed public trust, and have casted a pall over the work that the Senate is trying to accomplish for the people of Hawaiʻi,” according to the statement.  


The Hawaiʻi State Senate statement says the actions “are not reflective of the values and standards” that the body “strives to uphold.”

The Senate reports it will continue to take the necessary actions to increase transparency, combat corruption and expand ethics training to all members and staff. 

“Let us be clear – we condemn the actions of former Senator English and former Representative Cullen and will work to ensure that individuals who abuse their positions of power are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” the statement read.

Earlier today, the State Senate notified media partners that effective immediately, the Senate will be allowing members of the media full access to the Senate Gallery and Press Box during floor sessions. They will be asked to show proof of vaccination or provide a negative COVID-19 test (taken no longer than 48 hours prior to visit). 


The information was shared on behalf of Senate President Ronald D. Kouchi.

Meantime, House Speaker Scott K. Saiki said:

“The actions taken by former Senator [J] Kalani English and former Representative Ty Cullen were shocking and deeply disturbing. They were criminal.  Elected officials are entrusted by their constituents to represent their community’s interests. The former legislators used their positions for their personal gain. Their actions have tainted any legislation they may have worked on, as well as the entire Legislature. I am committed to doing everything in my power as Speaker of the House of Representatives to rebuild integrity and trust in our legislative process.”

The maximum statutory penalty for wire fraud is 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Sentencing for each individual is set before Judge Mollway on July 5, 2022.


Last week Richard H.S. Sing, attorney for J. Kalani English issued a statement saying English was “extremely remorseful and deeply sorry for his actions.” He went on to say that English has “cooperated fully” with the federal government.

Cullen resigned last week Tuesday, the same day information documents were announced by the US Attorney’s Office-District of Hawaiʻi. He was representing Royal Kunia, Village Park, Waipahu, Makakilo, and West Loch on Oʻahu.

English retired on May 1, 2021, citing “long-haul” effects of COVID-19. He was representing District 7, which includes Hāna, East and Upcountry Maui, Molokaʻi and Lānaʻi. 


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