LITTLE ROCK — The first witness in the federal bribery trial of former Arkansas Treasurer Martha Shoffner told jurors about the particulars of how state bond trades are made.
Chief deputy treasurer Debbie Rogers said Thursday that Shoffner would make the decisions about which bond traders the state would use for particular transactions.
Rogers also said that bond dealer Steele Stephens, who isn’t connected to the investment house Stephens Inc., had about twice as much state business as the other 10 or so approved dealers had.
Shoffner is charged with extortion and bribery over accusations she took $36,000 from Stephens in exchange for steering state business his way. Shoffner resigned May 21, a day after a criminal complaint was filed in federal court, and Stephens resigned from his job with the Russellville-based St. Bernard Financial Services the same day.
Shoffner's attorney said in opening statements Wednesday that the charges shouldn't have been filed and that Shoffner should have faced only a complaint before the state Ethics Commission for failing to report a gift.
On Thursday, prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge J. Leon Holmes to block defense attorney Chuck Banks from making that argument again for the rest of the trial.
Holmes did not rule immediately on the motion but told Banks to approach the bench if he intended to raise the subject. The judge said he'd rule on the basis of the context of the questioning until he makes a final ruling.
Banks said during opening statements that Shoffner should not have been charged in federal court over the purported bribes. Testimony in the trial began Thursday.