For­mer law­maker chang­ing plea in cor­rup­tion cases

The Saline Courier - - NEWS -

LIT­TLE ROCK — A for­mer Arkansas law­maker who is also the gover­nor’s nephew was ex­pected Mon­day to change his plea in two fed­eral cor­rup­tion cases as he faced a new charge of ac­cept­ing bribes in ex­change for ef­forts to change a state den­tal law.

Change of plea hear­ings were sched­uled for two cases in­volv­ing for­mer state Sen. Jeremy Hutchin­son, who has pleaded not guilty to charges he spent thou­sands of cam­paign dol­lars on per­sonal ex­penses and that he ac­cepted bribes in ex­change for help­ing a health non­profit. A hear­ing is sched­uled Tues­day in Lit­tle Rock in the cam­paign spend­ing case, and July 8 in the bribery case in Mis­souri.

Hutchin­son’s at­tor­ney and spokes­peo­ple for fed­eral prose­cu­tors han­dling the cases against the exlaw­maker de­clined com­ment.

Fed­eral prose­cu­tors in western Arkansas on Mon­day charged Hutchin­son with one count of con­spir­acy to com­mit bribery, ac­cus­ing the ex-law­maker of ac­cept­ing more than $157,000 from the coowner of or­thodon­tic clin­ics through­out Arkansas in ex­change for ef­forts to change a den­tal prac­tices law. Ac­cord­ing to court records, Hutchin­son said he wishes to plead guilty and agreed to have the case trans­ferred to the East­ern District of Arkansas, which is han­dling the case over his cam­paign spend­ing. Hutchin­son waived in­dict­ment by a grand jury.

Prose­cu­tors in court doc­u­ments said the bribes were con­cealed as le­gal fees paid to Hutchin­son’s law firm. The owner of the clin­ics was not iden­ti­fied.

Hutchin­son pleaded not guilty in Septem­ber in the cam­paign spend­ing case and had been seek­ing to have the charges against him dis­missed. Hutchin­son was charged with eight counts of wire fraud and four counts of fil­ing false tax re­turns.

Fed­eral prose­cu­tors al­lege that from 2010 through 2017, Hutchin­son used cam­paign money to pay for per­sonal ex­penses that also in­cluded Net­flix fees, jew­elry, a gym mem­ber­ship and his util­ity bills. They say he tried to hide by fal­si­fy­ing cam­paign fi­nance re­ports and tax fil­ings. Hutchin­son’s at­tor­neys have ar­gued that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­gan with an il­le­gal search of his lap­top and that ev­i­dence on the lap­top that would ex­on­er­ate him was de­stroyed.

He was charged in a sep­a­rate case in April with ac­cept­ing bribes in ex­change for help­ing a Mis­souri non­profit. A for­mer ex­ec­u­tive with the non­profit, Pre­ferred Fam­ily Health­care, ad­mit­ted June 12 to tak­ing part in a con­spir­acy to bribe Hutchin­son.

Hutchin­son is the son of for­mer U.S. Sen. Tim Hutchin­son and the nephew of Gov. Asa Hutchin­son.

Hutchin­son is among sev­eral for­mer Arkansas law­mak­ers who have been en­snared in cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tions since early 2017.

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