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Former Ouachita County judge pleads guilty to bribery

By Gavin Lesnick

This article was originally published June 11, 2014 at 9:20 a.m. Updated June 11, 2014 at 11:32 a.m.


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

The former Ouachita County judge accused of conspiring to award a disaster-relief contract in exchange for a campaign contribution pleaded guilty Wednesday to a single count of bribery.

U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas Conner Eldridge said three other counts against former County Judge Mike Hesterly will be dismissed as part of a plea deal.

Hesterly, who will face up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced at a later date, resigned as judge in April and was set to go to trial in July.

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

Eldridge said the "entirety of [Hesterly's] conduct" with regard to the bribery scheme will be considered at sentencing.

"As Arkansans, we expect our public officials to go to work, do the job they've been elected to and work hard and do the right thing for taxpayers and citizens," Eldridge said. "It's very frustrating and offensive to see public officials who would abuse their positions to accept a bribe and line their own pockets. That's unfortunately what Hesterly did."

The plea was entered Wednesday morning in U.S. district court in El Dorado. Eldridge said Hesterly "admitted to the conduct" before the judge accepted the plea agreement.

Clemons, who was also charged in the case, is the owner of Clemons Construction in Bearden. He changed his plea from innocent to guilty in March.

Both men were charged in January 2013.

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Displaying 1 - 3 of 3 total comments

SUPERDUTY says... June 11, 2014 at 3:27 p.m.

Why sell the rest of your life for $5000 (or more)?

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HM2 says... June 11, 2014 at 7:36 p.m.

I notice that there's not an R or a d after their names which means their both demo-craps

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DontDrinkDatKoolAid says... June 11, 2014 at 10:14 p.m.

Yep, Mike Hesterly was a Democrat.
ht tp://ww w.arcounties.o rg/public/userfiles/files/Publications/2013CountyOfficials3-13-13.pdf

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