A former state senator who pleaded guilty earlier this year to a federal mail fraud charge will appear before a federal judge next spring for sentencing.
Former state Sen. Paul Bookout, D-Jonesboro, will be sentenced March 2 at 1:30 p.m. before Chief District Judge Brian S. Miller, according to paperwork filed late Tuesday with the U.S. District Court. Bookout, who served as a state House member before being elected to the state Senate, faced an ethics investigation from the Arkansas Ethics Commission in 2013 over allegations of breaking the state’s campaign finance law. The findings then led to further investigation by the FBI.
Bookout, who had served as president pro tempore of the state Senate, pleaded guilty to the mail fraud charge March 11 in Little Rock.
When Bookout pleaded guilty, federal prosecutors said campaign contributions received from Bookout were used improperly.
“According to the information filed today, Bookout deposited campaign contributions for his 2010 and 2012 elections into two bank accounts. Between May 2009 and December 2012, campaign donations totaling $126,500 were deposited into one of those accounts. Between March 2012 and July 2013, campaign donations totaling $62,750 were deposited into the second account. The information alleges that between May 2009 and July 2013, Bookout unlawfully made payments totaling $150,048.12 from those accounts for personal items and expenses, including clothing for Bookout and family members, a sound system installed in Bookout’s home, golf clubs, country club pro shop expenses, sporting goods, liquor, household furnishing, tanning sessions, manicures, and travel expenses unrelated to his re-election campaigns,” federal prosecutors said in March.
“Additionally, the information alleges that in filing false CCE reports, Bookout represented to the Secretary of State’s Office, the public, and his contributors that all of the claimed expenditures were lawful and related to his campaigns, when in fact they were not. The mail fraud count charged relates to Bookout’s mailing of a fraudulent CCE report to the Secretary of State’s Office on about December 28, 2012.”
The attorney for Bookout, Bill Stanley of Jonesboro, filed a motion in mid-November asking for a continuance on the sentencing. In the motion, Stanley said there were questions over reimbursement and how the figures would be calculated.
“Defendant (Bookout) used a formula agreed to by state investigators to refund certain donors an amount equivalent to $.06 on a dollar from the 2012 campaign cycle. That on November 12 and again on November 13, 2015, the government forwarded a breakdown of the donors for not only the 2012 election cycle but also the 2010 election cycle with a formula outlining how much restitution each individual donor was owed,” Stanley said in the motion.
“That the formula used by the FBI and the formula agreed by Defendant’s personal account, while similar, are not identical. That Defendant needs additional time to meet with his accountant, Ronnie Richardson, who initially refunded monies from the 2012 campaign cycle, to identify which donors have been reimbursed in fall, over reimbursed or under reimbursed from said cycle so Defendant can present that information to the Court at his sentencing.”
Bookout has also been cooperating with federal authorities on the investigation, Stanley said earlier this year