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Former Arkansas state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson asks federal judge for leniency in bribery sentence

Former Arkansas state senator seeks 1 year, 1 day prison term in Missouri by Dale Ellis | April 14, 2023 at 4:59 a.m.
Former Arkansas Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson (left) arrives in 2018 at the federal courthouse in Little Rock with his father, former U.S. Sen. Tim Hutchinson. (File Photo/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

A former state senator and nephew of a former governor has asked a federal judge in Missouri for leniency when he is sentenced April 25 in U.S. District Court in Springfield, Mo.

Jeremy Hutchinson, a former state senator, son of former U.S. Sen. Tim Hutchinson and nephew of former Gov. Asa Hutchinson, filed a motion asking U.S. District Judge Brian Wimes in the Western District of Missouri to sentence him to one year and one day in prison to run concurrently to a 46-month sentence he received in federal court in Arkansas. The wide-ranging bribery conspiracy spanned two states and brought down the political careers of a number of Arkansas politicians, including Hutchinson.

Hutchinson, 49, of Little Rock, pleaded guilty in June 2019 in Little Rock to federal charges of bribery and filing a false tax return and was sentenced to 46 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Kristine G. Baker, who also ordered him to pay $355,535.10 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service and the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration. Although Hutchinson was ordered to report to prison by March 6, a court order filed three days earlier indicated that the U.S. Bureau of Prisons had not designated a facility for him to report to so he was given an additional three weeks of freedom.

Also, according to the order, the government had represented that the Bureau of Prisons would wait until Hutchinson is sentenced in Missouri before designating a facility for him to report to.

According to a plea agreement filed July 8, 2019, Hutchinson pleaded guilty in Missouri's western district to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States in exchange for the dismissal of numerous bribery and fraud counts. He faces a maximum prison term of five years, a maximum of three years' supervised release and a maximum $250,000 fine when he is sentenced.

In his sentencing memorandum filed Wednesday, Hutchinson asked to be sentenced to the same prison term as two of his co-defendants, orthodontist Benjamin Burris of Jonesboro and Hank Wilkins IV, a former state representative from Pine Bluff.

Hutchinson's sentencing date has been postponed a number of times as he waited to testify in the federal trial in Missouri of two Preferred Family Healthcare executives, Tommy Ray Goss, the former chief financial officer, and Goss's wife, Bontiea Bernedette Goss, the former chief operating officer. The two were scheduled to go to trial Oct. 3, but the trial was canceled less than a week before it was to begin when both Gosses pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy counts.

Hutchinson was one of a number of state lawmakers ensnared in illegal dealings with executives of Preferred Family Healthcare. Other lawmakers include Republicans Jon Woods and Micah Neal, both of Springdale, and Democrats Wilkins of Pine Bluff and Eddie Wayne Cooper of Melbourne.

Woods was convicted May 3, 2018, of 15 counts of public corruption and is currently serving 18 years in federal prison. According to the Bureau of Prisons, Woods is scheduled for release in mid-2033. Neal pleaded guilty in January 2017 for his role in the same scheme, and he testified against Woods. Neal was sentenced in September 2018 to three years of probation with one year to be served under house arrest. Wilkins was sentenced last month to a year and a day in prison and ordered to pay $123,000 in restitution.

No sentencing date has been set for Cooper, whose legal proceedings were handled by a federal judge in the Western District of Missouri.

Hutchinson is represented in the Missouri case by Tim Dudley of Little Rock and Nancy Price of Springfield, Mo.

  photo  Hutchinson

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