Arkansas Courts

A former Arkansas judge who admitted giving lighter sentences to men in return for sexual favors was investigated for similar crimes two decades ago but was never charged because he gave up his job as a deputy prosecutor.

Joseph Boeckmann later became a district judge, then preyed on men who appeared in his court for minor offenses. He pleaded guilty last year to wire fraud and witness tampering, and faces sentencing Wednesday.

The government says the FBI investigated Boeckmann more than 20 years ago but that no one raised a red flag when he later ran for the bench.

As Arkansas lawmakers headed to Little Rock Monday for the fiscal session, former Rep. Eddie Wayne Cooper, D-Melbourne, pleaded guilty in federal court for his role in a conspiracy to embezzle more than $4 million from a Springfield, Mo.-based health care charity.

Timothy Garrison, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that Cooper, 51, waived his right Monday to a grand jury and pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge David Rush to charges of one count of conspiracy to embezzle from the nonprofit organization.

Jake Files
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

A top Arkansas lawmaker has pleaded guilty to federal charges that he pocketed thousands of dollars in state funds intended to go toward the construction of a sports complex and falsified bids to ensure that he would get the money.

Republican state Sen. Jake Files pleaded guilty on Monday to wire fraud, money laundering and bank fraud charges related to the state funds and for pledging a forklift he did not own as collateral for a bank loan. Files was released on a $5,000 bond after entering his plea in Fort Smith.

David Wildy, a prominent Arkansas farmer, in a field of soybeans that were damaged by dicamba.
Dan Charles / NPR News

The State Plant Board will meet next Wednesday to reconsider a ban on a controversial weed killer that has divided Arkansas’s farming community. The meeting is in response to a request for changes by a subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislative Council for restrictions in the use of dicamba during next year’s growing season.

The herbicide can be sprayed on crops that have been genetically modified to tolerate it, but is blamed for widespread damage to neighboring non-resistant crops.

flickr.com

Federal court documents made public Monday cite an unnamed former Arkansas legislator and a Northwest Arkansas businessman as accomplices in a scheme with a New Jersey political consultant and several executives of a Springfield, Mo., charity to spend nearly $1 million on illegal political activity and kickbacks to co-conspirators.

Varner Arkansas Department of Correction Cummins Prison
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Five inmates have been charged in unrelated attacks the same afternoon that injured guards at two Arkansas prisons and number among a string of violent disturbances in the state's correctional facilities this year.

Four inmates have each been charged with two counts of battery in a Sept. 28 attack on two guards at the Varner Unit.

Another prisoner has been charged with one count of battery in another attack that occurred the same day at the Maximum Security Unit in Tucker.

Dicamba damage
University of Arkansas

Monsanto has asked a judge to prevent Arkansas lawmakers from banning the use of a weed killer that farmers in several states have said drifts onto their crops and causes widespread damage.

The Missouri-based agribusiness asked a Pulaski County judge to issue a preliminary injunction preventing the state from banning dicamba's use while the company challenges a prohibition approved by the Arkansas Plant Board last month.

A federal judge has canceled next week's scheduled trial for a former Arkansas state senator accused in a reported kickback scheme.

Former Sen. Jon Woods was set to go on trial Monday on 15 counts on fraud, but a judge in Fayetteville canceled the trial Friday so a hearing can be held on new evidence in the case. No hearing date has been set.

Woods was charged along with Oren Paris III and Randell Shelton Jr.

An Arkansas judge has dismissed a murder charge in a case involving evidence gathered by an Amazon Echo smart speaker.

Television station KHOG reports that the prosecutors' request to dismiss a first-degree murder charge against James Andrew Bates was granted Wednesday.

Bates was charged in the November 2015 death of Victor Collins, whose body was found in a hot tub at Bates' home. Prosecutors say they requested the dismissal because the evidence supports more than one reasonable explanation.

John Rogers
Mark Friedman / Arkansas Business

A Chicago federal judge has revoked bond for an Arkansas sports memorabilia collector who is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to wire fraud earlier this year.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin made the order Monday after prosecutors said John Rogers of North Little Rock, Arkansas, has continued to commit fraud. Federal prosecutors previously said Rogers defrauded investors by offering a phony Heisman Trophy as collateral for a $100,000 loan. Rogers pleaded guilty in March.

Ten Commandments
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

A man charged with crashing his vehicle into Arkansas' Ten Commandments display nearly three years after he was accused of destroying a monument at Oklahoma's Capitol has been found mentally unfit to go to trial.

A Pulaski County judge on Thursday found Michael Tate Reed unfit to proceed and ordered him to be held by the state hospital for further evaluation. Judge Chris Piazza set a September 2018 hearing on Reed's mental status.

A federal appeals court says it won't reconsider a panel's ruling that Arkansas can block Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood, two years after the state ended its contract with the organization over videos secretly recorded by an anti-abortion group.

Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren (R-Gravette) was selected as to chair the Tax Reform and Relief Task Force.
Jacob Kauffman / KUAR News

The Republican leader of the Arkansas Senate says his company is cutting ties with a drug rehabilitation program amid reports that workers provided by the nonprofit were not getting paid. In an interview with KUAR News, Senate Majority Leader Jim Hendren denied any wrongdoing by his company.

The accusations were detailed by news outlet Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting as part of a larger series looking at questionable practices by some rehab programs. On Tuesday a story was published by reporters Amy Julia Harris and Shoshana Walker saying Hendren’s company in northwest Arkansas relied on the workers who weren’t getting any monetary compensation.

John Rogers
Mark Friedman / Arkansas Business

A plea and arraignment hearing is scheduled for Monday in Pulaski County Circuit Court for former Arkansas sports memorabilia dealer John Rogers. He's facing state charges while awaiting sentencing next month on a federal wire fraud charge.

The new charges stem from the alleged theft by Rogers of three hard drives containing images valued at $364,167. In March he pleaded guilty in federal court after reaching a plea agreement that acknowledged he took part in an effort "to fraudulently obtain at least approximately $10 million" from investors, financial institutions and customers. Prosecutors say Rogers used a variety of schemes that included false pretenses, misrepresentations and lies.

Members of Arkansas' Supreme Court say the state must change a law that kept same-sex couples from listing both of their names on birth certificates, but disagree on who should do it.

The U.S. Supreme Court in June ruled the Arkansas law invalid, and state justices Thursday sent a case back to a lower court. Three justices say Pulaski County Judge Tim Fox impermissibly rewrote the statute and needs to write a new order, while another justice wants Fox to hold additional hearings. Three justices said legislators alone can change the law.

A former Arkansas judge accused of giving lighter sentences to defendants in return for nude photographs and sexual favors has pleaded guilty to wire fraud and witness tampering charges.

Joseph Boeckmann had been set for trial later this month but changed his plea to guilty Thursday in federal court.

The head of the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission has called the allegations among the worst cases of judicial misconduct in state history.

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

An Arkansas judge is again asking a disciplinary panel to dismiss a complaint concerning his participation in an anti-death penalty demonstration the same day he blocked the state from using an execution drug.

An attorney for Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen on Friday renewed a request that the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission drop the complaint. Griffen was photographed in April lying down on a cot outside the governor's mansion after he blocked Arkansas from using a lethal injection drug over claims that the state misled a medical supply company.

Planned Parenthood
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

A federal appeals court says it won't reconsider a panel's decision to clear the way for the state to restrict how the abortion pill is administered.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday denied a request from Planned Parenthood to have the full court review a three-judge panel's ruling vacating a judge's preliminary injunction against the 2015 law.

The measure requires doctors providing the pill to maintain a contract with another physician who has admitting privileges at a hospital and who agrees to handle any complications.

Arkansas Death Chamber Lethal Injection
Department of Correction

An Arkansas judge says prison officials must release the package label from a recently acquired lethal injection drug, saying manufacturers don't enjoy the same secrecy as others under the state's execution procedures.

Lawyer Steven Shults says Arkansas' Freedom of Information law requires disclosure. Pulaski County Circuit Judge Mackie Pierce on Tuesday rejected the state's argument that privacy granted to drug sellers and suppliers in Arkansas' execution law also extends to manufacturers.

An Arkansas trial has been delayed for a Tennessee rapper and his bodyguard, who face federal weapons charges.

The scheduled Monday trial of Ricky Hampton, who performs as Finese2Tymes, and bodyguard Kentrell Gwynn, both of Memphis, was postponed on Friday until March 19.

Hampton is charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm in connection with a shooting outside a nightclub in eastern Arkansas and Gwynn is charged with providing a felon with a firearm and with providing armed security to a felon.

Both have pleaded not guilty.

Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

An attorney for an Arkansas death row inmate is asking Gov. Asa Hutchinson to deny Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s request to set a date for his execution. Jack Gordon Greene was sentenced to death for the 1991 murder of Sidney Jethro Burnett at his home in Johnson County.

Greene’s court-appointed attorney is John C. Williams with the office of the Federal Public Defender. He argues that Greene’s declining mental state could render his execution unconstitutional.

Attorney General Asks Governor To Set Next Execution

Aug 17, 2017

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today has asked Gov. Asa Hutchinson to set the next execution, this after the state made international news for scheduling eight executions in 11 days in April in order to make use of a lethal injection drug set to expire May 1.

Arkansas's three-drug execution protocol calls for midazolam, vecuronium bromide and potassium chloride, in that order. The state's supply of midazolam expired May 1. The state doesn't have any alternative protocol to execute anyone sentenced to death. 

Planned Parenthood
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that Arkansas can block Medicaid funding for healthcare services conducted by Planned Parenthood. The 2-1 decision lifts preliminary injunctions issued by U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker after a class-action lawsuit was filed suit over the state's 2015 decision. She had ruled Medicaid rules allowed recipients to choose among any qualified provider.

This is press release from Jonesboro Attorney Bobby McDaniel: 

A judge in northeast Arkansas has awarded $150 million in a civil lawsuit to the families of five people who were fatally shot outside an Arkansas school in 1998.

The families' attorney, Bobby McDaniel, says they probably won't ever see the money, but hopes the Monday ruling will prevent Andrew Golden and Mitchell Johnson from profiting from the shooting.

Golden and Johnson set off a fire alarm at Westside Middle School in Jonesboro and shot at people as they evacuated the school.

Attorneys for three Arkansas abortion clinics say a new state law requiring suspension or revocation of their licenses for any violation unconstitutionally singles them out, while the state says the new restriction furthers its interest in protecting women's health.

A federal judge said Thursday he hoped to rule quickly in the challenge to the new measure, which was approved this year and took effect last week. Planned Parenthood and Little Rock Family Planning Services want the law struck down as unconstitutional.

Judge Bobby McCallister
Arkansas Business

A trial date has been set for a central Arkansas county circuit judge accused of having more than $100,000 in unpaid state and federal taxes.

The Saline Courier reports that special appointed Circuit Judge David Laser filed an order Monday to schedule Saline County Circuit Judge Bobby McCallister's trial for Nov. 6 and 7.

The Arkansas Judicial Discipline & Disability Commission began investigating McCallister's taxes in March.

Voter ID Vote photo ID
Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Arkansas' revived law requiring voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot will be put to the test as soon as it takes effect this week, with early voting beginning for five local sales tax elections.

Voters heading to the polls early in three cities and two counties Tuesday for special elections on sales tax measures will be required to show photo ID before casting a ballot, or sign a sworn statement confirming their identity under the law approved by the Legislature earlier this year.

A federal appeals court panel has reversed a judge's decision to reprimand five attorneys, including the husband of an Arkansas Supreme Court justice, who he said had dismissed a case in order to find a court they believed would be more favorable.

An Arkansas mother whose 5-year-old son died after being left in a day care van for almost nine hours in hot weather is suing the facility.

In the civil lawsuit filed Thursday, Ashley Smith says Ascent Children's Health Services failed to provide adequate care for her son. The suit says the day care was "indifferent in the recruitment, hiring, training, supervision, discipline of employees," and showed a "callous disregard."

Smith says she wants the day care closed.

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