by Gwen Moritz
Posted 6/5/2013 03:42 pm
Updated 10 months ago
Former Arkansas Treasurer Martha Shoffner, who last week withdrew a planned guilty plea to a single federal charge of extortion, was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday on 14 counts, including receipt of a bribe and extortion.
Shoffner was arrested at her Newport home May 18 after the FBI said it caught her on tape accepting a $6,000 payment from the broker, who hasn't been identified.
The indictment contains six counts of extortion, one count of attempted extortion and seven counts of receipt of a bribe.
Shoffner’s lawyer, Chuck Banks of Little Rock, had not seen the indictment on Wednesday afternoon, but he said the news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office suggested only that prosecutors had taken the same allegations that have already been made public and divided them into as many separate counts as possible “to maximize every count of two criminal statutes.”
"What’s important to me here, in addition to properly representing Martha, is whether we can get a fair trial," Banks said. "And I believe we can."
He said he and his client are preparing to go to trial and to force the government to prove every point of every allegation "beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the highest level of proof."
The indictment came less than a week after Shoffner's plan to plead guilty to a single charge of extortion broke down as she answered questions from U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes. Shoffner admitted in court that she accepted the cash payments from the bond broker, but whe denied that it influenced her official decisions. She also denied that she had "demanded" the payoffs, as alleged, but said the money was offered and she accepted.
U.S. Attorney Chris Thyer told The Associated Press that he believed Shoffner's admission in court could be used against her in the trial. Thyer said he expected Shoffner to make her first court appearance in the coming days.
According to the U.S. Attorney's office, the statutory penalty for extortion and attempted extortion under color of official right is no more than 20 years of incarceration, a possible fine of up to $250,000, and no more than 3 years of supervised release.
The statutory penalty for receipt of a bribe by an agent of a state government receiving federal funds is no more than 10 years of incarceration, a possible fine of up to $250,000, and no more than 3 years of supervised release.
Shoffner resigned last month under pressure from fellow Democrats and Republicans.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story.)