Former Arkansas state Sen. Jake Files was sentenced Monday to 18 months in federal prison for what the judge called "egregious" violations. The Republican of Fort Smith pleaded guilty in January to charges of wire fraud, money laundering and bank fraud as part of a wide-ranging corruption investigation.
Files was one of several former lawmakers facing corruption charges for allegedly guiding state money to clients, friends or themselves. He was accused of directing about $46,000 in state General Improvement Funds (GIF) for use in building a sports complex on city-owned property in Fort Smith.
The former senator submitted fraudulent bids to the Western Arkansas Development District to secure the GIF money and then directed that money to an associate’s bank account. The money was later withdrawn in a cashier’s check made payable to his construction company.
Talk Business & Politics reporter Michael Tilley, who was in court for the sentencing hearing in Fort Smith, said Files was emotional while asking U.S. District Judge P.K. Holmes III for liency.
"He essentially asked for mercy, said that he has lost his business, lost his home, even said that he may end up losing his wife and family. He was pretty emotional for some of the speech, said that he has suffered quite a bit already and said that if the purpose of sentencing was to prevent someone from doing it again, that he would never, ever be engaged in that kind of activity," Tilley reports.
Prosecutors had requested Files be sentenced to 18 to 24 months in prison, while his attorneys asked for one day followed by supervised release.
"Judge Holmes said the court couldn't just look past what he said was - quote - 'an egregous vilation of public trust,'" Tilley said.
Files is cooporating as authorities continue their widespread corruption investigation, which Tilley said seemed to influence Judge Holmes.
"The judge and even then feds agreed that he has been fully cooperative and he intends to cooporate... whenever he's called on in the future."
Files will remain free on bond until he is to report to prison on Aug. 2.
New ethics rules are being proposed by a bipartisan group of Arkansas Senate leaders following a slate of convictions against lawmakers found guilty of redirecting state money in exchange for bribes.