HONOLULU — A Hawaii councilman pleaded not guilty Friday to charges accusing him of leading a drug-trafficking organization, supplying guns, conspiring with a gang leader, requesting sexual favours as payment for drugs and assaulting a law enforcement officer in a case that highlights the hold methamphetamine has on some people in the state.
Arthur Brun led a major drug-trafficking conspiracy involving 11 other defendants since at least June 2019, while serving as an elected member of the Kauai County Council, U.S. Attorney for Hawaii Kenji Price said.
Brun, vice chair of the council’s Public Safety and Human Services Committee, pleaded not guilty in U.S. court in Honolulu.
Brun is a “politician who led a drug trafficking organization in the very community he was elected to represent,” Price said.
Prosecutors intend to ask the judge to order Brun held without bail at a detention hearing scheduled for next week. They say in court documents filed Friday that Brun obtained meth from a leader of the United Samoan Organization gang and had the drugs mailed to Hawaii from California.
Another co-defendant is a convicted felon who Brun used for protection, prosecutors said.
Brun “sometimes requested sexual favours as repayment for drugs he supplied,” prosecutors said in a motion asking for bail to be denied. They cited phone wiretaps and testimony by a defendant who is hoping for leniency at sentencing in a federal case.
Crystal meth, known locally as “batu” or “ice,” gained a stronghold across the islands long before becoming popular on the U.S. mainland. Mailing or shipping drugs to Hawaii became more common with increased airport security after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when it got more difficult to smuggle drugs through air travel.
Court documents say Brun arranged with a co-defendant to purchase a pound of meth to be mailed from California for $9,000. The appetite for the drug is so strong, it’s street value in Hawaii can be more than double that amount.
Brun abused drugs himself, prosecutors said.
In October, Kauai police pulled Brun over in a traffic stop after he was seen receiving meth from the gang leader, prosecutors said. As a lieutenant’s arm was inside the vehicle trying to take the keys out of the ignition, the car sped off, injuring the officer’s arm. During a high-speed chase, Brun threw the pound of meth out of his window, prosecutors said.
In the motion for no bail, prosecutors included transcripts of some of Brun’s intercepted calls, where he speaks in Pidgin, Hawaii’s creole language. In one conversation cited in the motion, he mentions injuring the officer. “Was his fault he got hurt, the (expletive) stuck his arm in the car, what he expect,” he told an unknown male.
Brun was on pretrial release from that arrest when he crossed a centre line while driving on Kauai on Feb. 7 and hit a pickup truck, injuring a six-year-old boy and a man, prosecutors said.
He remained seated in a wheelchair during Friday’s hearing because of injuries from that crash, said his court-appointed attorney, Rustam Barbee.
Brun’s criminal history includes a 2004 misdemeanour conviction for abuse of a family/household member and a 2004 felony conviction for second-degree theft, according to court documents.