Fox 16 Investigates: Judge Under Investigation, Refuses to Answer Questions About Taxes in Court

BENTON, Ark. - A Saline County Circuit Judge is under investigation by a judicial discipline panel and other authorities have been notified over personal tax issues and the judge's pleading the fifth during a court hearing.

Circuit Judge Bobby McCallister testified in a hearing on June 6, 2017, in a personal court matter, where he was questioned about his tax liability and whether he had paid his taxes. The judge repeatedly opted to "take the Fifth," a phrase referring to the Fifth Amendment right not to testify against oneself or provide testimony that could reasonably be used against a person in a criminal prosecution. In total, the judge "took the Fifth" seven times during that line of questioning.

Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission Executive Director David J. Sachar confirmed Tuesday that he filed a complaint on the judge after learning about information that raised questions about the judge's filing of personal taxes. Sachar said an investigation was pending in front of one of hte commission's panels. That panel could opt to move the case forward and authorize formal charges against the judge for violations of the judicial code or dismiss the complaint. If the case moved forward with formal charges, that would be followed by a hearing process and possible sanctions.

According to Sachar, the rules that govern the commission also allow further disclosures to other agencies, including prosecutors. Sachar confirmed other agencies had been notified as allowed by the rules, but wouldn't elaborate. State officials tell us the process is underway to appoint a special prosecutor. Saline County Prosecutor Ken Casady declined to comment when we reached out to him on Monday.

According to Rule 1 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, judges are required to follow the law.

"When judges have issues with criminal law or other violations, or even violations of the code, [Rule 1] is always cited," Sachar said. "I'm not saying that's what has happened here, they're just allegations at this point. But certainly, that's something that the panel will look at as to whether it applies to the Code of Judicial Conduct. "

McCallister currently has liens pending from the Internal Revenue Service for unpaid personal taxes between 2000 and 2007 totaling more than $100,000. He ran for Circuit Judge and took the bench in 2009. He was then re-elected to a second term. His current salary is $160,000 a year.

McCallister did not return multiple calls for comment regarding either investigation or his testimony.

McCallister's wife, however, did testify during that June 6 hearing that she was unaware taxes had gone unpaid, alleging that the IRS informed her as many as 10 years’ worth of taxes could be involved.

"What have you learned from conversations and from the deposition of your husband?" an attorney asked Starla McCallister.

"Well, I learned, first of all, that we had not paid taxes starting off at three years. And then I learned from another deposition we hadn't paid taxes for 10 years. Then learned it was further on," she said, according to a hearing transcript. "It kept on getting worse and worse. And then, I learned there were liens on the house for some tax years."

According to Ms. McCallister she was not aware, prior to these legal proceedings that her husband had not been filing taxes. "Because I trusted him. Because when I had tax issues, or if my tax return came in ... I would put them in a manila envelope. And I would say, 'Oh, Bobby, here's our tax stuff.' I would give them to him and then wouldn't think about them again."

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