Judge Rules Martha Shoffner Corruption Conviction Will Stand

by Christina Huynh, The Associated Press  on Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2014 5:05 pm  

Martha Shoffner (Photo by AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

LITTLE ROCK - A federal judge Tuesday upheld the corruption conviction of Arkansas' former treasurer, saying prosecutors proved she illegally influenced interstate commerce and rejecting her argument that the case against her should have been heard by state authorities.

Lawyers for Martha Shoffner had said the Arkansas Ethics Commission - not federal jurors - should have addressed claims that she accepted $36,000 from a bond broker who did business with the state.

"Perhaps so," U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes said in his 15-page order.

"Her crimes represent a breach of trust against the State of Arkansas much more than an injury to interstate commerce or a wrong against the federal government," he wrote.

But he went on to say federal prosecutors had a right to the case, too.

Defense attorney Chuck Banks said he had not read the court's order nor talked to Shoffner about it.

"I can't tell you what we're going to do next," he said.

Prosecutors could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.

Shoffner resigned as state treasurer after being charged last May. A jury convicted her March 11 on 14 bribery and extortion charges.

Shoffner's attorneys had filed a motion to acquit based on the federal jurisdiction issue. But Holmes had delayed issuing ruling until Tuesday, saying he would only do so if a guilty verdict was returned and after the sides filed written briefs arguing their positions.

Throughout the trial, Shoffner claimed that her acceptance of money from the bond broker didn't influence how she did business.

Holmes disagreed, though, and in a large part of his order detailed how broker Steele Stephens, who testified under immunity, came to handle a growing portion of the state's investments - at one time triple the amount of the next-highest broker on the list.



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