Update: Jeremy Hutchinson makes guilty plea in corruption case

Politics

Update: 

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Nexstar Media Group)  –  Jeremy Hutchinson, a former Arkansas lawmaker, pleaded guilty to two charges: conspiracy to commit bribery and willfully filing a false tax return.

Sentencing is scheduled for a later date.

Statement from Governor Asa Hutchinson: 

“Jeremy has been engaged as a part time legislator for many years, and I am deeply saddened with this breach of the public trust. As a public official, I know the damage this does to public confidence and trust in our elected officials. We should all double our efforts to do the right thing in public office and to restore the public trust.​​​​​​

“As my nephew, I hurt for him and his children. My prayers will continue for Jeremy, and I am hopeful this chapter of Arkansas political history will soon come to a close.”

News release from the U.S. Department of Justice:

WASHINGTON — Former Arkansas State Senator Jeremy Hutchinson pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Kristine G. Baker to accepting multiple bribes and tax fraud in connection with a multi-district investigation spanning the Eastern and Western Districts of Arkansas and the Western District of Missouri.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Cody Hiland for the Eastern District of Arkansas, U.S. Attorney Duane (DAK) Kees for the Western District of Arkansas and U.S. Attorney Timothy A. Garrison for the Western District of Missouri made the announcement.

Hutchinson, 45, of Little Rock, Arkansas, was previously a state senator and representative prior to resigning after he was charged in the Eastern District of Arkansas in a 12-count federal grand jury indictment with eight counts of wire fraud and four counts of filing false tax returns. The indictment alleges that from 2010 through 2017, Hutchinson stole and misappropriated thousands of dollars in state campaign contributions for his own personal use and then filed false federal income tax returns from 2011 to 2014 to conceal his conduct.

Hutchinson was also previously charged in a 32-count federal grand jury indictment in the Western District of Missouri for his role in a multi-million-dollar public corruption scheme that involved embezzlement, bribes and illegal campaign contributions for elected public officials. Pursuant to his plea agreement, Hutchinson agreed to plead guilty to Count 1 of the Western District of Missouri superseding indictment, charging him with conspiracy to commit federal program bribery; Count 9 of the Eastern District of Arkansas indictment, charging him with filing a false tax return; and to an information filed in the Western District of Arkansas, charging him with conspiracy to commit federal program bribery.

As part of his plea, Hutchinson admitted that he was hired as outside counsel by an unidentified individual who owned and operated orthodontic clinics throughout the State of Arkansas, and in exchange for payments and legal work, Hutchinson pushed legislation beneficial to the individual.  Hutchinson admitted that he was provided legal work to conceal the corrupt nature of his arrangement and that he would have never been hired by the individual if not for his position as an elected official.  Hutchinson further admitted as part of his plea that in 2011, he stole over $10,000 in state campaign funds for his own personal use and also falsified his 2011 tax returns, including failing to report $20,000-per-month-payments he received from one law firm and other sources of income he knowingly and intentionally concealed from his taxes.

Count 1 of the Western District of Missouri superseding indictment, which Hutchinson, pursuant to his plea agreement, is expected to plead guilty to after today’s hearing before Judge Baker, alleges that Hutchinson and other elected officials accepted bribes in the form of monthly legal retainers and other things of value, from employees and executives of Preferred Family Healthcare Inc. (formerly known as Alternative Opportunities Inc.), a Springfield, Missouri-based healthcare charity.  In exchange for the bribes, Hutchinson admitted that he and other elected officials provided favorable legislative and official action for the charity, including directing funds from Arkansas’s General Improvement Fund (GIF).

The multi-district investigation was conducted by the FBI, IRS Criminal Investigations, and the Offices of the Inspectors General from the Departments of Justice, Labor, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.  The cases are being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Marco A. Palmieri and Sean F. Mulryne of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section; Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephanie Mazzanti and Patrick Harris from the Eastern District of Arkansas; Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ben Wulff and Aaron Jennen of the Western District of Arkansas and Steven M. Mohlhenrich of the Western District of Missouri.

Original story: 

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A former Arkansas lawmaker who is also the governor’s nephew is expected to change his plea to federal charges he spent thousands of dollars in campaign funds on trips, groceries and other personal expenses, according to a court document filed Monday.

A change of plea hearing was scheduled Tuesday for former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, who pleaded not guilty in September and had been seeking to have the charges against him dismissed. Hutchinson’s attorney and the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas office declined to comment on the filing.

Hutchinson was charged with eight counts of wire fraud and four counts of filing false tax returns. He was charged in a separate case in April with accepting bribes in exchange for helping a Missouri nonprofit. A former executive with the nonprofit, Preferred Family Healthcare, admitted June 12 to taking part in a conspiracy to bribe Hutchinson.

Hutchinson is the son of former U.S. Sen. Tim Hutchinson and the nephew of Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

Federal prosecutors allege that from 2010 through 2017, Hutchinson used campaign money to pay for personal expenses that also included Netflix fees, jewelry, a gym membership and his utility bills. They say he tried to hide by falsifying campaign finance reports and tax filings.

Hutchinson’s attorneys have argued that the investigation began with an illegal search of his laptop and that evidence on the laptop that would exonerate him was destroyed.

Hutchinson is among several former Arkansas lawmakers who have been ensnared in corruption investigations since early 2017.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

More Don't Miss