Kaua?i Council Member Pleads Not Guilty To Charges Tied To Alleged Drug Ring He Led
Updated: 2/28/20, 4:55 p.m.
Kaua?i County Council member Arthur Brun pleaded not guilty Friday to 10 felony charges -- two with a maximum punishment of life in prison -- after he was arrested with 11 others by Kaua?i police and federal agents as part of an islandwide drug sweep.
At a press conference at Kaua?i Police Department Friday morning, law enforcement authorities said Brun headed a drug ring that sold methamphetamine while he served on the council.
At an arraignment hearing on Oahu in the afternoon before federal Magistrate Rom Trader, Brun -- looking tired but showing no emotion -- delivered his not-guilty plea while seating in a wheelchair with his right arm wrapped. It was not clear if he had been injured.
Eight others charged with him also pleaded not guilty. Their detention hearing is scheduled for March 4 at 1:30 p.m.
After the hearing, Brun's attorney Rustam Barbee said it is still early in the case to comment at length.
"The defense needs to review the materials that the government will be presenting to the court," he said. "At this time, it's just premature to say."
Authorities said one of Brun's suppliers of meth was Maluelue Umu, who they say heads the United Samoan Organization, a gang operating inside and outside of the state prison system.
According to U.S. Attorney Kenji Price, some of the charges against Brun include assault of a federal law enforcement officer, distribution of meth, obstruction of justice through witness tampering and drug trafficking conspiracy.
Brun allegedly ran his drug organization while acting as vice-chair of the Kaua?i County Council's public safety and human services committee. He also serves as chairman of the parks and recreation/transportation committee.
The Kaua?i police began the investigation into the drug trafficking ring. But due to the size and scope of the probe, KPD then worked with federal agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Attorney's Office of Hawaii, the FBI, U.S. Postal Service, and the U.S. Marshals Service.
Brun and his associates had been monitored by law enforcement agencies since June.
"The suspects under indictment today were identified as part of a major drug trafficking organization that has been supplying a significant amount of methamphetamine throughout the community," said Todd Raybuck, Kaua?i police chief, in a release Thursday.
Raybuck said the suspects are facing felony charges under a federal indictment of conspiring to distribute methamphetamine and other crimes."
Kaua?i Mayor Derek Kawakami issued a statement on Brun's arrest: “I am disappointed that an elected council member has been arrested under these serious criminal drug charges. But this highlights the reality that addiction is a disease that knows no bounds and does not discriminate. While it’s important to remember that all persons are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, it is just as important to remember that no one – in any capacity – is above the law."
Last October, Brun was arrested for hitting a police officer with his vehicle while fleeing a traffic stop. Price said Brun had methamphetamine in his possession when the officer ordered him out of his car. Instead of complying, the councilman sped off, injuring the officer.
A high-speed chase followed during which authorities say Brun threw a backpack with about a pound of meth out of the car.
Before the latest indcitment, Brun faced a March 16 trial on charges of assaulting the police officer and failure to stop a motor vehicle, both Class C felonies.
Earlier this month, Brun was also involved in a traffic incident that injured a 49-year-old man and a 6-year-old boy. Brun was driving north on Kapaa Bypass Road in a Hyundai Genesis when he crossed the center line, hitting a pickup truck heading south. Brun was cited for crossing a double yellow line and driving without insurance.
If Brun is convicted of a felony, he would immediately lose his at-large council seat as required by the County Charter.
"Although this is Councilmember Brun’s second arrest, he has not been convicted of a felony and no action can be taken until the criminal proceedings have run their course," said Council Chair Arryl Kaneshiro in a statement.
He noted that the council's rules also allow for disciplinary proceedings the council could initiate. But he said the action that prompts the discipline -- disorderly or contemptuous behavior, or personal vilification -- would need to have occurred in the presence of the council.
Lastly, Kaneshiro said, Brun could resign, and "that is a decision only he can make."
"On a personal level it has been difficult to watch what has transpired with Councilmember Brun’s personal situation," Kaneshiro said. "This is a testament of the hardships everyone deals with in their personal lives and the repercussion of the decisions we make as individuals."
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
Correction: Arthur Brun serves as vice-chair of the Kaua'i County Council's public safety and human services committee. His position was misstated in an earlier version of this story.