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A federal court Monday granted Michael Maggio's motion seeking to withdraw his previous request to get out of prison while he challenged his bribery conviction.

The former circuit judge's motion, filed in mid-December, came amid reports that he had been seen in Little Rock and amid speculation that he had begun cooperating with federal investigators in the hope of getting a reduced prison sentence. His attorney, James Hensley, and the U.S. attorney's office have declined public comment on the reports.

Maggio, 57, began serving a 10-year sentence in July 2017 and has since been moved from a federal prison in Kentucky to a privately run lockup in Mason, Tenn., where inmates in transit to and from court are sometimes housed.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Brian Miller came just days after Gilbert Baker, a former state senator from Conway and past chairman of the Arkansas Republican Party, pleaded innocent to federal charges of bribery, conspiracy and wire fraud in the same criminal investigation that led to Maggio's guilty plea in January 2015.

A federal grand jury earlier this month indicted Baker in a reported scheme involving Maggio and nursing-home owner Michael Morton, who has not been charged and has denied wrongdoing.

Monday's decision by Miller was filed without prejudice, meaning Maggio can refile his previous request for relief if he desires. Miller dismissed Maggio's motion seeking a voluntary dismissal of his previous request for a writ of habeas corpus. Miller denied Maggio's motion for release and a U.S. attorney motion for waiver of attorney-client privilege as moot.

Maggio's motion seeking to back off a challenge to his conviction gave no explanation.

In an email late Monday, Hensley said he was "not at liberty to discuss the case."

In October, Maggio filed a petition seeking to appear before a judge to argue that he was being unconstitutionally imprisoned. Maggio said his original attorney, Lauren Hoover, provided ineffective counsel by misleading him, withholding information from him and pressuring him to plead guilty to bribery in January 2015.

Maggio was a judge in Arkansas' 20th Judicial Circuit, which covers Faulkner, Van Buren and Searcy counties, but the Arkansas Supreme Court ordered him removed from office in September 2014 over unrelated problems, including contentious online comments.

In his 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 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 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.

The plea agreement did not identify Morton or Baker by name.

In a related development, a hearing on any pending motions has been set in Faulkner County Circuit Court on a long-delayed lawsuit against Baker and Morton by Bull's family. That hearing was set Friday for 10 a.m. May 22.

State Desk on 01/29/2019

Print Headline: Judge lets former Arkansas judge withdraw prison-release bid

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