Arkansas Courts

Womack
KUAR News

A seventh member of the Arkansas Supreme Court now faces ethics charges over the court's decision to prohibit a judge who participated in an anti-death penalty demonstration from handling any execution-related cases.

A Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission panel formally filed charges Thursday against Justice Shawn Womack over the court's handling of the case involving Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, who was photographed lying on a cot outside the governor's mansion the same day he blocked Arkansas from using an execution drug last year.

State Sen. Jason Rapert (file photo).
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A federal lawsuit was filed Tuesday against long-serving state Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow, by local members of national atheist group who say the Arkansas lawmaker violated their constitutional rights by blocking them on social media.

Betty Jo Fernau, Catherine Shoshone, Robert Barringer and Karen Dempsey, all members of American Atheists Inc., filed the civil rights lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas against the Faulkner County Republican lawmaker for violating the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and Arkansas state law.

Jeremy Hutchinson
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

The trial of former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, who is accused of using campaign funds for personal expenses, is being delayed until next year.

Online court records show U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker agreed Thursday to move the Republican's trial from Oct. 22 to July 8 in order to give the defense more time to prepare.

Prosecutors didn't object to the delay.

Hutchinson, who is the nephew of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, resigned in August after being charged with eight counts of wire fraud and four counts of filing false tax returns.

He has pleaded not guilty.

Jon Woods
Arkansas Times

Former Arkansas state Sen. Jon Woods has reported to a federal prison in Texas to begin a more than 18-year prison sentence for bribery .

The Federal Bureau of Prisons website shows Woods is being held at a low-security facility in Fort Worth.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that Woods arrived at the prison at 1 p.m. Wednesday, the deadline for him to report.

education schools
arkansas.gov

A federal judge has granted Jacksonville North Pulaski School District partial unitary status and says it has made good faith efforts toward becoming fully unitary.

U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall said Tuesday he will declare the district fully unitary, or desegregated, after it constructs two new elementary schools and replaces two older ones. Marshall said the district must submit yearly progress reports, beginning next July, until it completes the facilities plan.

He also said the district should push for more incentives for black teachers to get certification.

John Brown
KARK-Channel 4

An Arkansas man who has been imprisoned since 1992 for robbery and murder convictions has been released after a judge overturned his conviction last month.

A judge ordered John Brown's release Wednesday after he served 26 years for the 1988 killing and robbery of an elderly woman in Fordyce. The Midwest Innocence Project, which appealed on Brown's behalf, says Brown's lawyer at the time was "ineffective and corrupt," and argued the state withheld potentially exculpatory evidence.

In 2015, Brown's co-defendant confessed to committing the crimes alone.

Jeremy Hutchinson
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

A former Arkansas lawmaker whose uncle is the state's governor pleaded not guilty Tuesday to federal charges that he spent thousands of dollars in campaign funds on trips, groceries and other personal expenses.

Former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson made his first court appearance Tuesday. He was charged last month with eight counts of wire fraud and four counts of filing false tax returns. His case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker and is tentatively set for trial on Oct. 22. Hutchinson is the nephew of Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Both are Republicans.

A former Arkansas state representative has been sentenced to three years' probation for his role in a bribery scheme.

Former Rep. Micah Neal was sentenced Thursday to probation, the first year of which he must serve under house arrest. Neal also must complete 300 hours of community service and pay $200,000 in restitution.

Prosecutors said Neal and former state Sen. Jon Woods directed state funds to two nonprofits in exchange for kickbacks which were funneled through a consulting company. Neal pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy.

insidehighered.com

The former president of a private Christian college in northwest Arkansas has been sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty for his role in a kickback scheme involving former state lawmakers.

Oren Paris III was also ordered to pay $621,500 in restitution. Paris was president of Ecclesia College. He admitted to funneling bribe money to the lawmakers in exchange for state grants.

The Catholic prelate for Arkansas says he isn’t aware of any recent allegations of clerical sex abuse in the state, at least since the Conference of Catholic Bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

That's a set of procedures for addressing allegations of abuse against priests, and guidelines for reconciliation and prevention of future abuse written and adopted in 2002.

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