Former Arkansas Lawmaker Sentenced To 18 years In Prison On Corruption Charges

Sep 5, 2018

Former Sen. Jon Woods arrives at the federal courthouse in Fayetteville before Wednesday's sentencing hearing.
Credit Ashley Gardner

Former Arkansas state Sen. Jon Woods was sentenced Wednesday to more than 18 years and four months in prison for his role in a bribery scheme. The Republican must also serve three years of supervised release and pay over $1.6 million in restitution.

Woods was convicted in May of 15 felony charges. Prosecutors alleged he took kickbacks in exchanging for steering state money to a private Christian college. Woods co-defendant, Randall Shelton Jr. is scheduled to be sentenced on Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Brooks had harsh words for Woods as he was sentenced. Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter Doug Thompson was in the federal courtroom in Fayetteville for Wednesday’s hearing and spoke with KUAR’s Michael Hibblen about what Brooks told Woods.

DOUG THOMPSON: He proceeded to give what I can only describe as a very pointed lecture to former Senator Woods. That he betrayed the public trust — that it was an extreme case of betrayal — that people elected him to office. And it echoed what had been said earlier by the U.S. Attorney (Duane) “Dak” Kees that Woods’ real crime was at least as much a deception and betrayal as it was theft since he’s a public official, or was a public official. The judge said that Woods displayed what he called a criminal mentality that had become so ingrained that he felt like a light sentence would not be enough to deter him from future criminality. (If) you’re a first time offender, normally you would be entitled to a large degree of mercy, but in this case your crimes are so brazen and are so driven solely by greed and so much a betrayal of public trust that no, we’re not going to treat you like a regular first time offender.

MICHAEL HIBBLEN: Did Jon Woods show any reaction in court?

THOMPSON: No, no. He has an appeal going on. His attorney has made it very clear that, both before his hearing and during the hearing, that there will be an appeal on this. That Mr. Woods remains free on his bond until he’s due to report to whatever federal facility he will be assigned to, and he will have to report on September 26th.

HIBBLEN: Now, one day after this sentence was handed down, his co-defendant Randell Shelton Jr. is to be sentenced by the same judge. I guess this looks rather ominous for him.

THOMPSON: It does look ominous for him. Now, that’s not interpretation, that is a statement, and I haven’t got any rebuttal to that, but that was a statement by the U.S. Attorney — that obviously, many of Mr. Shelton’s main legal objections appealing to the same grounds for mitigation Mr. Woods did, and what we have today is a court finding that those mitigating factors simply don’t apply. He’s not going to not apply them in Woods’ case and turn around and apply them in Mr. Shelton’s case, simple as that.