A former state senator and member of a powerful Arkansas political family was sentenced Friday to 46 months in federal prison for bribery and filing a false tax return.
He was involved in a bribery and tax avoidance scheme that the judge said was "not a case of someone who is just bad with numbers," but the result of deliberate choices made by the defendant.
Jeremy Hutchinson, 48, the son of former congressman Tim Hutchinson and nephew of former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, was sentenced to a prison term that is a full two years below the low-end guideline range of 70 to 87 months that was calculated from federal sentencing guidelines.
In addition, U.S. District Judge Kristine G. Baker ordered Hutchinson to pay $355,535.10 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service and the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.
The U.S. Attorneys office had asked Baker to sentence Hutchinson to 6-1/2 years in prison. Timothy Dudley, Hutchinson's attorney, had asked Baker to sentence his client to one year and one day in prison.
Hutchinson pleaded guilty to the charges — which were contained in two separate indictments across two separate federal districts before being merged into a single case — on June 25, 2019, in Baker’s court. The next month, in the Western District of Missouri, Hutchinson pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud a federally funded charity, for which he faces a maximum sentence of five years. Sentencing in that case has not been set.
The former legislator admitted to filing a false income tax return in 2012 that under-reported his income in the 2011 tax year, and to making additional false statements on subsequent tax returns through 2014.
Hutchinson also admitted to conspiring from 2014-17 to commit bribery with Benjamin Burris of Fort Smith, who was the co-owner of orthodontic clinics in Arkansas. Hutchinson admitted to accepting more than $157,000 from Burris over a period of nearly three years beginning in February 2014. Hutchinson admitted the payments, disguised as legal fees, were paid for him to further legislation favorable to the Burris' businesses.
Hutchinson was allowed to remain free on bond until he is to report to prison March 6.