Posted 2/14/2014 01:46 pm
Updated 3 weeks ago
LITTLE ROCK - A federal judge on Friday granted former Arkansas Treasurer Martha Shoffner's request to stand trial separately on mail fraud counts alleging she misspent campaign funds that were recently added to the list of other corruption charges she faces.
Shoffner said she wouldn't have had time to adequately prepare to defend herself against the 10 mail fraud counts, which allege that she spent $9,800 in leftover funds from her successful 2010 re-election campaign on personal items, including clothing and cosmetics. She was indicted on those counts Feb. 6 and is set to stand trial March 3 on charges alleging that she steered state investments to a broker who gave her money.
"Here, requiring Shoffner to go to trial on the ten counts of mail fraud on March 3 would certainly prejudice her inasmuch as she has not had an opportunity to prepare to defend against those charges," U.S. District Judge J. Leon Holmes said in his order granting Shoffner's request.
Shoffner was indicted last year on charges alleging that she accepted more than $36,000 cash from a bond broker to whom she steered state investments. Shoffner has pleaded not guilty in that case.
Shoffner, 69, 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. Shoffner, a Democrat, stepped down days after her arrest.
In his order, Holmes said he would schedule Shoffner's trial on the mail fraud counts later. An arraignment on those charges is set for Feb. 27.
Shoffner had initially planned to plead guilty last year to bribery charges related to the cash payments from the broker until she told Holmes in court that the payments didn't affect her decisions as treasurer and that she didn't intentionally steer business to the broker.
When Holmes asked Shoffner last week if she accepted payments from the broker, she responded: "Yes, but it was offered. I didn't demand it."
Holmes rejected the plea since she wasn't admitting guilt to all of the elements of the charge. Federal prosecutors later expanded their charges against Shoffner over the payments.
(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten, broadcast or distributed.)