Arkansas Courts

Windstream Holdings Inc. said Monday that it plans to enter Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection immediately as the Little Rock-based rural telecom provider deals with the fallout of an adverse federal court ruling on Feb. 15.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen taking part in an anti-death penalty demonstration in front of the Arkansas Governor's Mansion in April 2017.
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

The Supreme Court is leaving in place a decision dismissing a lawsuit filed by a judge in Arkansas who was barred from overseeing execution-related cases after he participated in an anti-death penalty demonstration.

The justices said Tuesday that they wouldn't get involved in the lawsuit filed by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen.

Gilbert Baker
Arkansas Legislature

A former Arkansas lawmaker has pleaded not guilty to charges he conspired to bribe an ex-judge who admitted to lowering a jury's award in a negligence lawsuit in exchange for campaign contributions.

A federal judge on Thursday set a Feb. 25 trial date for former Sen. Gilbert Baker, who is charged with conspiracy, bribery and wire fraud in the alleged scheme. Baker was ordered to enter an inpatient substance abuse treatment program and surrender his passport.

Alan Leveritt
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

A federal judge has let stand an Arkansas law requiring contractors to pledge not to boycott Israel, ruling that such a boycott is not protected by the First Amendment.

U.S. District Judge Brian Miller on Wednesday dismissed the lawsuit the Arkansas Times had filed challenging the 2017 law. The newspaper had asked the judge to block the law, which requires contractors to reduce their fees by 20 percent if they don't sign the pledge.

Mike Laux Lloyd St. Clair Benjamin Crump No knock raids police
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

More people are coming forward saying they too have been victimized through the Little Rock Police Department’s practice of "no-knock" drug raids. On Tuesday, civil rights attorneys Benjamin Crump and Mike Laux held a press conference that ran more than an hour and included 12 people sharing their experiences of officers using explosives to enter their homes.

Ten Commandments Jason Rapert
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

A federal judge is allowing the Satanic Temple to join a lawsuit challenging a Ten Commandments monument installed near Arkansas' state Capitol.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker on Monday granted the Satanic Temple's request to intervene in the lawsuit seeking to remove the privately funded monument. A 2015 law required the state to allow its construction.

Opponents argue the government has unconstitutionally endorsement religion.

 Justice Courtney Goodson Judicial Crisis Network.
Arkansas Times / You Tube

An Arkansas court is dismissing a television station's appeal of an order that prohibited it from airing a conservative group's attack ad against a state Supreme Court justice during her re-election bid.

The Court of Appeals on Wednesday dismissed the appeal by Tegna, Inc., which challenged the ruling preventing several television stations from airing the Judicial Crisis Network's ad targeting Justice Courtney Goodson last spring. Goodson won re-election in November.

Alan Leveritt
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

An Arkansas newspaper is asking a federal judge to strike down a state law that requires government contractors to pledge to not boycott Israel or reduce their fees by 20 percent.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas challenged the law on Tuesday on behalf of the Arkansas Times LP, which says the University of Arkansas Pulaski Technical College refused to contract for advertising with the newspaper unless the Arkansas Times signed the pledge. The lawsuit argues the requirement violates the U.S. Constitution.

A Tennessee rapper has been sentenced in Arkansas to five years in prison on a federal weapons charge that came after he was arrested with a gun a week before a shooting at an unrelated event at a Little Rock nightclub where he was performing.

Ricky Hampton, who performs under the name Finese2Tymes, was sentenced Thursday in Little Rock.

Hampton, who has a prior felony conviction, initially pleaded guilty in March to possessing a gun at a Forrest City nightclub in eastern Arkansas. He sought to withdraw his guilty plea in October, but withdrew the request two weeks later.

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen taking part in an anti-death penalty demonstration in front of the Arkansas Governor's Mansion in April 2017.
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

Attorneys for an Arkansas judge say they're asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the judge's complaints against members of the state Supreme Court.

Attorney Mike Laux says the petition was filed Friday on behalf of Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen. It comes after previous complaints were dismissed by a district judge, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals and a judicial oversight commission.

Laux said he's confident the high court will take the case because he believes the appeals court "got it wrong."

Attorney Solomon Radner (left) with plaintiffs Tyrone Jackson and Tasheara announcing the lawsuit Wednesday. They contend the Power Ultra Lounge was negligent by not providing better security.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Nineteen people who were injured during a mass shooting last year at a Little Rock nightclub are suing the manager of the Power Ultra Lounge and its property owner. Twenty-five people were hit when gunfire erupted between rival gang members at a performance by the rapper known as Finese2Tymes. Three others were injured while trying to escape the club.

Attorney Solomon Radner of Southfield, Mich. says the club was negligent by failing to have adequately trained security and staff for that kind of event.

Planned Parenthood Great Plains

Three Arkansas abortion clinics are appealing a state board's ruling that they violated a law barring them from charging a patient seeking an abortion for related services during the waiting period before the procedure.

A Tennessee rapper wants to withdraw his guilty plea from a weapons charge that was filed after he was arrested with a gun following a shooting at a Little Rock nightclub that left 25 injured last summer.

An attorney for Ricky Hampton said in a filing in federal court Monday that Hampton wanted a hearing on his request to withdraw his guilty plea and have substitute counsel appointed. Hampton in March pleaded guilty and admitted he possessed a gun at an eastern Arkansas night club a week before the Little Rock shooting.

Attorney Benjamin Crump (center) with plaintiffs Roderick Talley (left) and Derrick Davis (right ) at KUAR Wednesday.
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Three more people have been added to a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Little Rock Police Department. Roderick Talley, Juanglecio Boykins, Candice Caldwell, and Derrick Davis allege the narcotics unit’s use of no-knock search warrants violated their fourth amendment rights.

Womack
KUAR News

A seventh member of the Arkansas Supreme Court now faces ethics charges over the court's decision to prohibit a judge who participated in an anti-death penalty demonstration from handling any execution-related cases.

A Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission panel formally filed charges Thursday against Justice Shawn Womack over the court's handling of the case involving Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, who was photographed lying on a cot outside the governor's mansion the same day he blocked Arkansas from using an execution drug last year.

State Sen. Jason Rapert (file photo).
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A federal lawsuit was filed Tuesday against long-serving state Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow, by local members of national atheist group who say the Arkansas lawmaker violated their constitutional rights by blocking them on social media.

Betty Jo Fernau, Catherine Shoshone, Robert Barringer and Karen Dempsey, all members of American Atheists Inc., filed the civil rights lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas against the Faulkner County Republican lawmaker for violating the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and Arkansas state law.

Jeremy Hutchinson
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

The trial of former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, who is accused of using campaign funds for personal expenses, is being delayed until next year.

Online court records show U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker agreed Thursday to move the Republican's trial from Oct. 22 to July 8 in order to give the defense more time to prepare.

Prosecutors didn't object to the delay.

Hutchinson, who is the nephew of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, resigned in August after being charged with eight counts of wire fraud and four counts of filing false tax returns.

He has pleaded not guilty.

Jon Woods
Arkansas Times

Former Arkansas state Sen. Jon Woods has reported to a federal prison in Texas to begin a more than 18-year prison sentence for bribery .

The Federal Bureau of Prisons website shows Woods is being held at a low-security facility in Fort Worth.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that Woods arrived at the prison at 1 p.m. Wednesday, the deadline for him to report.

education schools
arkansas.gov

A federal judge has granted Jacksonville North Pulaski School District partial unitary status and says it has made good faith efforts toward becoming fully unitary.

U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall said Tuesday he will declare the district fully unitary, or desegregated, after it constructs two new elementary schools and replaces two older ones. Marshall said the district must submit yearly progress reports, beginning next July, until it completes the facilities plan.

He also said the district should push for more incentives for black teachers to get certification.

John Brown
KARK-Channel 4

An Arkansas man who has been imprisoned since 1992 for robbery and murder convictions has been released after a judge overturned his conviction last month.

A judge ordered John Brown's release Wednesday after he served 26 years for the 1988 killing and robbery of an elderly woman in Fordyce. The Midwest Innocence Project, which appealed on Brown's behalf, says Brown's lawyer at the time was "ineffective and corrupt," and argued the state withheld potentially exculpatory evidence.

In 2015, Brown's co-defendant confessed to committing the crimes alone.

Jeremy Hutchinson
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.

A former Arkansas state representative has been sentenced to three years' probation for his role in a bribery scheme.

Former Rep. Micah Neal was sentenced Thursday to probation, the first year of which he must serve under house arrest. Neal also must complete 300 hours of community service and pay $200,000 in restitution.

Prosecutors said Neal and former state Sen. Jon Woods directed state funds to two nonprofits in exchange for kickbacks which were funneled through a consulting company. Neal pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy.

insidehighered.com

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.

The Catholic prelate for Arkansas says he isn’t aware of any recent allegations of clerical sex abuse in the state, at least since the Conference of Catholic Bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

That's a set of procedures for addressing allegations of abuse against priests, and guidelines for reconciliation and prevention of future abuse written and adopted in 2002.

Salfalko via Flickr, Creative Commons

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.

Jon Woods
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.

Jon Woods
Arkansas Times

A sentencing hearing is to begin Wednesday at 9 a.m. for former Arkansas state Senator Jon Woods. He and several others have been convicted or pleaded guilty as part of a wide-ranging corruption investigation. Woods' co-defendant Randell Shelton Jr. will be sentenced Thursday, while their accomplices are scheduled to be sentenced next week.

Doug Thompson, a reporter for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, covered Woods' trial from start to finish and spoke with KUAR about Woods' case.

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.

Leslie Rutledge Attorney General
Talk Business & Politics

A Pulaski County Judge ruled Monday in a political tussle over previous state employment records of Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, but answers to many of the questions are far from complete.

Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Tim Fox ruled from the bench, ordering the release of Rutledge’s job performance records regarding her work as an attorney with the Arkansas Department of Human Services in 2007, seven years before she was elected to her present office.

Rusty Cranford
Arkansas Nonprofit News Network

Next week, the first in a series of sentencing hearings will be held for former Arkansas lawmakers, a college president and others who were convicted or pleaded guilty for their roles in a wide-ranging corruption scheme.

It’s a complicated story largely centered around Rusty Cranford, a once-powerful lobbyist. Reporter David Ramsey wrote about this in a story for the Arkansas Nonprofit News Network.

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