A former Hawaii lawmaker was sentenced Thursday to two years in prison in a federal corruption case that’s drawn attention to a perennial problem in the islands: the tens of thousands of cesspools that release 50 million gallons of raw sewage into the state’s pristine waters every day.
Cesspools — in-ground pits that collect sewage from houses and buildings not connected to city services for gradual release into the environment — are at the center of the criminal case against former Democratic state Rep. Ty Cullen. He has admitted to taking bribes of cash and gambling chips in exchange for influencing legislation to reduce Hawaii’s widespread use of cesspools.
U.S. District Court Judge Susan Oki Mollway said she gave Cullen a sentence at the shortest end of the term recommended by prosecutors because he had cooperated extensively with investigators. Yet she didn’t go as low as the 15 months requested by his defense attorney because of the serious nature of his crimes.
“This was a grievous breach of public trust on your part. It appears to have been motivated by greed, and it stretched out over a number of years,” Mollway told Cullen. “I am very concerned that this was not a momentary lapse of judgement.”
Cullen told the judge he took full responsibility for and was ashamed of his actions.
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