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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - In this Aug. 18, 2015 file photo, state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Benton, speaks at a legislative subcommittee meeting at the state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark. Jeremy Hutchinson resigned after he was charged with misspending campaign funds on things like gym memberships and a Netflix subscription. He has pleaded not guilty and is seeking to have the charges dismissed. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)

The Arkansas Ethics Commission on Friday fined former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson $11,000 over violations of state campaign-finance reporting laws.

The Little Rock Republican already faces separate federal wire- and tax-fraud charges related to his campaign finances.

The ethics panel voted 3-0, with two members not present, that Hutchinson committed four violations of state law, according to Ethics Commission Director Graham Sloan. The fines and violations cited in the panel's motion include:

• $6,500 -- Using campaign funds and carry-over funds as personal income, Arkansas Code Annotated 7-6-203 (f) and (h). Hutchinson spent campaign funds on a Netflix subscription, a D1 Sports Training membership, Shiloh Christian School tuition and a woman's ring.

• $2,000 -- Failing to report campaign contributions by Hutchinson and his law firm, Arkansas Code Annotated 7-6-207(b)(1)(A)-(D).

• $2,000 -- Failing to report about 10 campaign expenditures in a disclosure report covering June 1, 2016, through Dec. 31, 2016, Arkansas Code annotated 7-6-207 (b)(1)(E)-(H).

• $500 -- Failing to file state-mandated campaign contribution and expense reports for the second and third quarters of 2016; for the first, second and third quarters of 2017, and a final report.

The commission also on Friday voted to issue a letter of reprimand to Hutchinson in connection with the violations. The letter was not immediately available.

Hutchinson's Little Rock attorney, Tim Dudley, could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

The Arkansas Ethics Commission holds hearings in private unless a defendant asks for a public hearing, Sloan said. Hutchinson's hearing Friday was private, though the commission voted in public.

Whether Hutchinson claimed innocence or disputed the Ethics Commission violations isn't public information, since the hearing was private.

The commission makes its decisions based on civil law and a preponderance of evidence, which means guilt is more likely than not, according to Sloan. That's a lower bar than criminal courts, which require proof "beyond a reasonable doubt."

A federal grand jury indicted Hutchinson, a nephew of Gov. Asa Hutchinson and son of former U.S. Sen. Tim Hutchinson, R-Ark., on Aug. 30 on 12 counts of wire and tax fraud.

The indictment accused him of misspending campaign donations on personal items and under-reporting his income on federal tax forms.

Jeremy Hutchinson, who resigned his state Senate seat after being indicted, has pleaded innocent to the federal charges and is free without bail.

A few days after Hutchinson's indictment, Mike Lee, a Little Rock lawyer and then the Democratic candidate for Arkansas attorney general, filed the Ethics Commission complaint against Hutchinson.

In filing the complaint, Lee criticized his Republican opponent, incumbent Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, of being slow to pursue corruption in the state Legislature. Rutledge defeated Lee to win a second term.

Lee said Friday that he attached the federal indictment to the complaint he filed with the Ethics Commission.

Hutchinson also has been linked to a federal bribery investigation involving a Missouri-based nonprofit health care provider, Preferred Family Healthcare Inc., and former Arkansas lobbyist and Preferred Family executive Milton "Rusty" Cranford.

Cranford has pleaded guilty to paying bribes that, he said, went to Hutchinson, identified in that case's court records as "Senator A."

Federal charges pending against Hutchinson do not include Cranford's accusations. Hutchinson hasn't been charged elsewhere in connection with bribery.

Hutchinson's attorneys on Feb. 7 asked U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker to dismiss the charges because of government mistakes and gross misconduct, some of it involving evidence from a laptop computer they claim was stolen. Federal prosecutors on March 7 denied misconduct and argued that the charges should stand.

Photo by Staton Breidenthal
Former Arkansas Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson (left) arrives Tuesday morning at the federal courthouse in Little rock with his father, former U.S. Sen. Tim Hutchinson. Hutchinson plead not guilty to 12 counts of wire and tax fraud.

A Section on 03/16/2019

Print Headline: Former Arkansas senator is fined $11,000 by ethics panel

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