Mag­gio plan­ning appeal to high court

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

CON­WAY — For­mer Cir­cuit Judge Michael Mag­gio plans to appeal his fed­eral bribery con­vic­tion and sen­tence to the U. S. Supreme Court, his at­tor­ney said Tues­day.

Mag­gio has un­til Oct. 2 to ask the Supreme Court to con­sider his case but will file the re­quest sooner, at­tor­ney John Wes­ley Hall said.

Last week, Hall had un­suc­cess­fully asked U.S. Dis­trict Judge Brian Miller in Lit­tle Rock to de­lay Mag­gio’s prison sen­tence un­til to­day, while Hall pre­pared a pe­ti­tion for re­hear­ing in the 8th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals in St. Louis. But on Mon­day, Hall ad­vised the ap­peals court Mag­gio wouldn’t seek a re­hear­ing in the 8th Cir­cuit.

Mag­gio, 56, re­ported to the U. S. mar­shal in down­town Lit­tle Rock to be­gin his 10-year prison sen­tence one week ago to­day.

The Fed­eral Bureau of Prisons hasn’t as­signed him to a fed­eral fa­cil­ity as of Tues­day af­ter­noon. He was be­ing held tem­po­rar­ily at the West Ten­nessee fed­eral prison in Ma­son, Tenn.

On why the de­fense opted to take its case to the Supreme Court in­stead of the 8th Cir­cuit, Hall said, “As stri­dent as the eighth cir­cuit was, what’s the point?”

Even so, Mag­gio faces a tough le­gal process in try­ing to with­draw his Jan­uary 2015 guilty plea to a fed­eral bribery charge

Hall said the Supreme Court agrees to hear one in 90 cases it’s asked to con­sider.

“It’s very, very tough,” said Ken­neth Gal­lant, a law pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Arkansas at Lit­tle Rock W.H. Bowen School of Law.

“It’s a long shot, but the court has ex­pressed in­ter­est in these corruption cases. So, who knows?” said Gal­lant, who has ex­per­tise in fed­eral crim­i­nal law. “They are work­ing on what the def­i­ni­tion of corruption is in fed­eral statutes. So, it would make sense to me why an at­tor­ney … would pe­ti­tion the Supreme Court” in a fed­eral corruption case.

In a 2015 plea agree­ment, Mag­gio 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, 2013, 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 did. Mag­gio later with­drew from that race be­cause of un­re­lated prob­lems.

In the plea agree­ment, Mag­gio im­pli­cated Mor­ton and fundraiser Gil­bert Baker, a for­mer state se­na­tor from Con­way. The agree­ment did not iden­tify them by name.

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