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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.

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An Arkansas judge has disqualified a ballot measure that would limit the damages awarded in civil lawsuits and would give the state Legislature control over court rules.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Mackie Pierce on Thursday ruled that the proposal lawmakers put on the November ballot violates the state's constitution by combining disparate measures into one amendment. The proposed amendment caps noneconomic and punitive damages awarded in lawsuits and also places limits on attorneys' contingency fees.

Election vote
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A proposal to legalize casinos in Arkansas has been approved for the November ballot.

Secretary of State Mark Martin's office on Wednesday said supporters of the proposed constitutional amendment submitted more than the nearly 85,000 signatures from registered voters required to put the proposal on the ballot. Martin's office said it had determined 99,988 valid signatures were submitted.

Jeremy Hutchinson
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

Attorneys say a nephew of Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson plans to resign from the state senate to focus on defending himself from corruption charges.

Attorneys for Republican state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson Attorneys on Friday called the new accusations that he had spent campaign funds on personal expenses, including a Caribbean cruise and tuition payments, inaccurate. But they say he's stepping down so that Capitol business can proceed without "unnecessary distraction."

Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Two more inmates have died of possible drug overdoses at a maximum security prison in southeast Arkansas.

Arkansas Department of Correction attorney James DePriest say the inmates aged 26 and 55 were found unresponsive Wednesday in their cells at Varner Supermax Unit, about 50 miles southeast of Little Rock.

DePriest has said three other inmates were found unresponsive earlier this week and that they died within 24 hours of each other .

War Memorial Stadium
Bobby Ampazzan / Arkansas Public Media

Arkansas officials say they're implementing new security measures at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. That's after thousands of attendees fled the stands during a high school football game because of false rumors about a gun threat.

The Department of Parks and Tourism said Tuesday it's instituting a clear bag policy for all athletic events, will use a security wand on all patrons entering the facility and is prohibiting loitering in the concourse. The department says it will continue to evaluate security measures and enhance them as necessary.

Varner Arkansas Department of Correction Cummins Prison
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A Department of Correction official says three inmates have died in less than 24 hours at a prison in southeast Arkansas, possibly from drug use.

Spokesman James DePriest said Monday that both state police and the department are investigating to determine the cause of the deaths at Varner and its supermax unit.

Planned Parenthood Great Plains

A federal appeals court says it won't allow Arkansas to enforce a law that critics say would make the state the first in the U.S. to effectively ban abortion pills.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday denied a request by the state to put on hold a judge's order preventing Arkansas from enforcing the law.

That law says doctors who provide the pills must hold a contract with a physician with admitting privileges at a hospital who agrees to handle any complications.

Wendell Griffen
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

An attorney for an Arkansas judge who faces sanctions for participating in a death penalty demonstration the same day he blocked the use of an execution drug says the complaint against the jurist is more about optics than it is ethics.

A judicial ethics commission on Friday held a hearing on Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen's request to dismiss the complaint against him over the demonstration last year. Griffen was photographed laying on a cot outside the governor's mansion during a death penalty demonstration last year.

Little Rock Police Helicopter
Little Rock Police Department

Authorities say one person was hurt when a powerful wind toppled a Little Rock Police Department helicopter during a test run.

Little Rock Police Lt. Michael Ford tells TV station KATV that a pilot was conducting the test run Thursday after a new battery was installed in the helicopter.

Ford says a straight-line wind tipped the helicopter off a staging area it was sitting on, then the aircraft went into a malfunction and started spinning on the ground.

Ford says one officer suffered a serious head injury but was able to talk to emergency crews as they arrived.

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