Bribe-tak­ing judge starts prison term

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - DE­BRA HALE-SHEL­TON

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

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