Former Arkansas Senator Pleads Not-Guilty To Corruption Charges

Sep 18, 2018

File photo of Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson before his resignation after being charged last month with corruption charges.
Credit 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.

Hutchinson said little at the brief hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia Harris. Hutchinson's father, former U.S. Sen. Tim Hutchinson, accompanied him to the hearing. His attorney later said he was confident the former state lawmaker would be acquitted.

"The indictment is only one side of the story and there is a lot of exculpatory evidence that was left out of the indictment," attorney Tim Dudley said in a statement. "My client deserves his presumption of innocence and we are confident that in time that presumption will be affirmed."

Federal prosecutors allege that from 2010 through 2017, Hutchinson used campaign money to pay for personal expenses that also included Netflix fees, jewelry, a gym membership and his utility bills. They say he tried to hide it by falsifying campaign finance reports and tax filings.

Hutchinson, who chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee, resigned hours after prosecutors unsealed the indictment against him. He is the latest in a string of former Arkansas legislators to face accusations from federal prosecutors of corruption.