Bribe-taking judge starts prison term
Former Circuit Judge Michael Maggio surrendered Wednesday to begin serving a 10-year prison sentence for bribery.
Maggio, 56, surrendered at the U.S. Marshals Service office in downtown Little Rock at about 1:30 p.m., 30 minutes before the 2 p.m. deadline ordered by U.S. District Judge Brian Miller.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons hadn’t assigned him to a federal facility as of late Wednesday afternoon. He’ll be incarcerated temporarily at the West Tennessee Detention Facility, a federal prison in Mason, Tenn., said Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Givens. Mason is about 205 miles east of Conway.
“This is a tough, tough day for me, my family, my friends, my supporters,” Maggio told television station KARK moments before he surrendered. “I’d like to think that I’m much, much more than this.
“It’s not a day anybody wants to look forward to. It’s not a day anybody wants to have, but it is here,” Maggio said.
Maggio pleaded guilty to bribery in U.S. District Court in Little Rock in January 2015. In a plea agreement, he admitted lowering a Faulkner County jury’s judgment in a negligence lawsuit from $5.2 million to $1 million in exchange for thousands of dollars in indirect campaign donations.
The lawsuit was filed over the 2008 death of Martha Bull, 76, of Perryville at a Greenbrier nursing home owned by Fort Smith businessman Michael Morton. On July 8, 2013, Morton signed off on thousands of dollars in donations to several political action committees. On July 10, Maggio slashed the judgment.
Morton has said he intended for the PAC donations to go in turn to Maggio’s campaign for a seat on the Arkansas Court of Appeals, and some of them did.
In the plea agreement, Maggio implicated Morton and fundraiser Gilbert Baker, a former state senator and former chairman of the Arkansas Republican Party. The agreement didn’t identify them by name. While denying wrongdoing, Morton and Baker have acknowledged the agreement was referring to them. Neither is charged with a crime.
Before Maggio was sentenced, he sought to withdraw his guilty plea, saying he was pressured into it. His current attorney, John Wesley Hall, appealed Miller’s decision not to let Maggio take back the plea, but a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld Maggio’s plea and sentence.
Hall has since said he will ask the panel or the full appeals court to rehear the appeal. He also can ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the appeal.
In March 2016, Miller granted a request Maggio be declared a pauper during his appeal, meaning the government would pay for a defense attorney.
The Arkansas Supreme Court ordered Maggio removed from office in September 2014 in part because of online comments he made about topics including women, sex, divorce, bestiality and a legally confidential adoption case involving actress Charlize Theron.
In the KARK interview, Maggio was asked if he thought what was happening Wednesday was “fair.” He referred that question to his attorney.
“This is a tough, tough day for me, my family, my friends, my supporters. I’d like to think that I’m much, much more than this.”
— Former Circuit Judge Michael Maggio