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Former Arkansas senator scheduled to change plea; new bribery charge surfaces

by Eric Besson | June 24, 2019 at 10:55 a.m. | Updated June 24, 2019 at 4:01 p.m.
FILE — Former Arkansas Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson (right) arrives at the federal courthouse in Little Rock with his attorney Tim Dudley on Sept. 18, 2018.

4 p.m. UPDATE:

Federal prosecutors in western Arkansas on Monday charged former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson with conspiracy to commit bribery, a new allegation that surfaced one day before Hutchinson is scheduled to change his innocent plea to charges filed last year in Little Rock.

Hutchinson also faces a dozen federal charges in the Western District of Missouri. A change of plea hearing there is scheduled for July 8, according to a notice filed Monday.

In the western Arkansas case, Hutchinson is accused of conspiring with “Individual A,” described as a co-owner of several Arkansas orthodontic clinics from February 2014 through March 2017. Hutchinson waived his right to prosecution by indictment, according to court filings.

The unnamed person paid Hutchinson “bribes in the form of legal fees and retainers that were, at least in part, in exchange” for official favors for the person and his businesses, according to the information, which lists $157,000 in payments from the person’s companies to Hutchinson between February 2014 and November 2016.

The document lists Senate Bill 143 of 2015 and an interim study proposal Hutchinson introduced that year among the specific official acts he took. It also makes mention of Hutchinson taking a “necessary step toward attempting to amend the Dental Practices Act as desired by Individual A.”

Hutchinson, nephew of Gov. Asa Hutchinson and son of former U.S. Sen. Tim Hutchinson, is scheduled to appear in a Little Rock federal courtroom at noon Tuesday to change his plea to 12 wire and tax fraud charges alleged by a federal grand jury last August.

Hutchinson, R-Little Rock, who was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, resigned last year after he was indicted.


Former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson is scheduled to change his plea to federal charges of misspending campaign contributions and under-reporting income on his federal tax filings, according to a notice published in U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker’s court.

Hutchinson, R-Little Rock, pleaded innocent to a dozen counts of wire and tax fraud following a grand jury indictment last August. The veteran lawmaker, and nephew of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, resigned his Senate seat following the charges.

The change of plea hearing, set for noon Tuesday, comes as Baker’s decision on his motion to dismiss the charges is pending. Baker said she would issue a written order following a two-day hearing this month that focused on whether FBI agents improperly obtained evidence.


Notice of change of plea hearing


Hutchinson is accused of using more than $150,000 in political contributions for personal use between 2010 and 2017 and of failing to report more than $271,000 in income between 2011 and 2014. His trial was scheduled to begin July 8.

He also faces a dozen federal charges in a federal Missouri courtroom as a co-defendant to two former executives of the nonprofit Preferred Family Healthcare, once Arkansas’ largest provider of outpatient mental health programs.

In that case Hutchinson is accused of participating in a conspiracy, accepting bribes, theft of a program receiving federal money and honest-services fraud.


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