Corruption

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.

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.

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.

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.

Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

The latest effort to combat public corruption in Arkansas is coming from the state’s top law enforcement official.

Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced Wednesday her office is forming a Public Integrity Division under the existing Special Investigations Department to investigate claims of corruption against public officials.

Rutledge noted the division’s creation is not intended as a direct response to a slew of convictions of former legislators and lobbyists for misdirecting or misusing state general improvement money.

Jake Files
Arkansas Times

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.

An ex-lobbyist has pleaded guilty in a multimillion-dollar scheme to bribe Arkansas lawmakers and embezzle from a Missouri-based nonprofit where he worked.

Rusty Cranford of Rogers, Arkansas, admitted paying bribes to former state Sen. Jon Woods, former state Rep. Henry Wilkins IV and a legislator identified only as "Arkansas Senator A." Outside his lobbying work, Cranford oversaw Springfield, Missouri-based Preferred Family Healthcare's operations in Arkansas.

Jury selection is underway in the trial for a former Arkansas state senator accused in an alleged kickback scheme.

Former Sen. Jon Woods faces 15 fraud charges. Prosecutors accuse of him of taking kickbacks from former Ecclesia College president Oren Paris III in exchange for directing state funding to the college.

Paris pleaded guilty last week to one count of fraud and agreed to testify for prosecutors. Woods' attorney, Patrick Benca, has said his client is innocent and that defense attorneys will prove that, despite Paris' guilty plea.

Michael Maggio
Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

A former Arkansas judge was ordered to begin serving his 10-year prison sentence after an appeals court upheld his bribery conviction.

Former circuit judge Michael Maggio was ordered Monday to surrender to federal authorities before 2 p.m. Wednesday to begin serving his sentence. The order from U.S. District Judge Brian Miller said an arrest warrant will be issued if Maggio doesn't report to authorities.

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