On May 3, 2023, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported that Michael Maggio, a former Faulkner County judge who served a sentence of 51 months in federal prison following a guilty plea on a federal bribery charge, has formally requested the presiding judge to dismiss the information and the entire case by entering an order nunc pro tunc, which is Latin for “now for then” and would essentially clear the record.

Michael Maggio, aged 61 and residing in Conway, entered a plea of guilt for the offense of bribery concerning federal program funds before the Honorable U.S. District Judge Brian Miller on December 9, 2015. Subsequently, on March 24, 2016, Maggio received a sentence of 10 years imprisonment in a federal correctional facility. During the bribery conspiracy trial involving Gilbert Baker, a former state senator from Conway, Maggio provided testimony regarding the alleged scheme wherein Baker, acting as a lobbyist and Republican Party fundraiser in 2013, facilitated campaign contributions from Michael Morton, the proprietor of Greenbrier Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, towards Maggio’s Court of Appeals campaign.

Maggio withdrew his candidacy the following year due to a scandal associated with comments attributed to him on a Louisiana State University website. Federal prosecutors asserted that Baker bribed Maggio as part of a larger plot to influence Maggio to reduce a financial judgment against Greenbrier Nursing and Rehabilitation Center concerning the 2008 demise of patient Martha Bull.

Two weeks into what was supposed to be a one-month rehabilitation stay at the nursing home, Bull, who had suffered a stroke, passed away.  In response to the nursing home’s perceived negligence in Bull’s demise, her family was granted a jury award of $5.2 million due to their successful legal claim.

To get Maggio to lower a jury award against the nursing home from $5.2 million to $1 million, Baker allegedly orchestrated the 2013 contributions as a bribe. Morton allegedly sent Baker 10 $3,000 checks, which Baker then dispersed to 10 political action committees he had founded.

At the same time, Baker also received $100,000 for the University of Central Arkansas from Morton and $48,000 for Rhonda Wood’s judicial campaign. Wood is now a justice on the state supreme court. At Baker’s trial, Morton and Wood also gave testimony on behalf of the prosecution. Both have adamantly denied any wrongdoing, and neither was ever charged.

Baker faced charges of bribery conspiracy and honest services wire fraud. He was acquitted of the bribery conspiracy charge after a three-week jury trial in July 2021, resulting in a mistrial for the remaining counts due to a jury deadlock. In October 2022, government prosecutors filed a motion to dismiss the indictment with prejudice, meaning the charges cannot be brought again. Michael Maggio’s attorney, James Hensley, filed a motion requesting that U.S. District Judge Brian Miller issue a nunc pro tunc order to dismiss the charges against Maggio with prejudice, clearing him of any wrongdoing. If successful, Maggio could have his law license reinstated.

Hensley stated in the motion that while “other defendants may be able to continue their career after a prison sentence, i.e., plumber, contractor, etc.,” “Mr. Maggio has little chance of returning to his chosen profession as an attorney without this Court’s intervention.”

If the motion is granted, Maggio’s conviction for bribery would essentially be overturned, according to Hensley, having a similar impact to a pardon. By doing this, Maggio’s citizenship rights—among others that a felony record has affected—to vote, run for office, own firearms, and serve on a jury would all be reinstated.

Hensley remarked, “I would think this would have the same effect as a pardon.” Yes, I do. A pardon declares that you don’t have a felony on record, that you cannot be charged with it, and that it cannot be used against you. Therefore, it would be equivalent to not having a felony on record.

Asked if a pardon petition had been considered, Hensley said no. Hensley denied that a petition for a pardon had been taken into account.

Hensley claimed that since his release from prison, Maggio has been spending time with his family and working alongside his son to install fiber optic networks. With eight children and numerous grandchildren, he said, “their weekends are filled with that.” The objective, in this case, is to simply restore the man to health, which is what the law, it seems, case law, and the statute now permits.

Hensley argued that Maggio did not receive any property or financial gain from the federal government, which is a requirement for a charge of bribery of a federal program, and that there was no connection between Maggio and the receipt of federal funds. He provided evidence for the motion by citing several cases, including a 2020 U.S. United States Supreme Court ruling. v. Bridget Anne Kelly, which overturned a lower court decision on the grounds that the federal fraud statutes outlined in 18 USC § 666(a)(1)(B) — the statute under which Maggio entered his guilty plea — necessitate that any financial gain must originate directly from federal funds. These cases, according to Hensley, support the motion and strengthen the argument for the dismissal of the charges against Maggio.

Hensley emphasized that it is insufficient to simply assert that the judicial district received federal funds. Hensley said, “There has to be proof of a direct connection to show that the funds came from the federal government.”

When asked about Maggio’s intentions regarding the reinstatement of his law license and the possibility of returning to the practice of law if the motion is granted, Hensley clarified that those factors were not the primary motivation behind the motion. He stated that the motion seeks to ensure that Maggio is treated in the same manner as all other parties involved in the case. Hensley noted that no one has been found guilty, certain individuals who could have faced charges were not charged, and Maggio simply desires to be considered as innocent, similar to everyone else involved in the matter.

Despite declining to comment, a representative for the U.S. attorney’s office said that lawyers there are currently drafting a response to Maggio’s motion and will file it as soon as it is ready.


Source: Arkansas Democrat Gazette