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Ouachita County judge's detention hearing postponed

By Gavin Lesnick

This article was published January 22, 2013 at 8:18 a.m.

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FILE - Ouachita County Judge James Hesterly is escorted from the federal courthouse in El Dorado after a Jan. 18 hearing.


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— The Ouachita County judge accused of bribery and fraud charges has asked a federal judge to cancel a hearing scheduled Tuesday to determine whether he can be released on bond.

Ouachita County Judge James Michael Hesterly had been set to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Bryant for a detention hearing. Prosecutors said during Hesterly's arraignment that they opposed his release because he had threatened witnesses, an FBI agent and the agent's family.

In a court document filed Monday, Hesterly's attorney asked that the hearing "be waived subject to [Hesterly's] right to request that it be rescheduled at a future date should it be needed."

The request noted that prosecutors did not oppose the move. A representative in Bryant's office said the hearing had been canceled, though no formal order to that effect had yet been entered in an online filing system.

Federal authorities allege that Hesterly awarded Harry Clemons Jr. a contract to clean up debris in Ouachita County left by a pair of 2009 tornadoes in exchange for a campaign contribution, which is reported to have been more than $5,000.

Clemons, owner of Clemons Construction in Bearden, was allowed to remain free pending a March 13 trial, but Hesterly was ordered detained at least until a bond hearing.

Prosecutors were expected to present additional information about the purported threats during the hearing.

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