Jeremy Hutchinson Asks Judge to Dismiss Charges, Alleges FBI Misconduct

by Lance Turner  on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019 1:48 pm   4 min read

Jeremy Hutchinson

Attorneys for former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson on Thursday filed a motion to dismiss fraud charges made against him in August by a federal grand jury, citing "a pattern of gross misconduct" by the FBI.

The motion, available here, says charges in the case "are the result of an investigation that started with an illegal search of Mr. Hutchinson's laptop and ended with the destruction of exculpatory evidence to cover up government misconduct. 

"Ultimately, the government's missteps reveal a pattern of gross misconduct that require this Court to dismiss the indictment with prejudice."

The motion lends more color to statements made by Hutchinson's attorneys when prosecutors filed the indictment last year. Hutchinson's legal team had said the government "irreparably impaired Mr. Hutchinson's ability to defend himself by searching his computer without a warrant and then inexplicably destroying an image of his hard drive which possessed key exculpatory evidence."

The motion also reveals that Hutchinson discussed with the FBI an alleged bribery attempt by then state Sen. Jon Woods, R-Springdale, in 2014, almost three years before Woods was indicted on corruption charges.

Hutchinson is the nephew of Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the son of former U.S. Sen. Tim Hutchinson. On Thursday, Tim Hutchinson said in an email obtained by KARK-TV, Channel 4, that the "FBI used coercive interviews, a warrantless search of Jeremy's stolen laptop; the destruction of the laptop and exculpatory evidence it contained which Jeremy needs to defend himself and the blatant violation of attorney client privilege."

In a joint statement, Jeremy Hutchinson's attorneys — Tim Dudley of Little Rock, Nathan Muyskens of Washington, D.C. and Marc L. Mukasey of New York — said their motion alleges "systematic violations" of their client's constitutional rights.

"… [T]he government should not be able to seize a wealth of personal files without consent, peek behind the curtain, use this wrongfully-obtained information to investigate, then destroy the original files and any record thereof," they said. "The motion alleges that the government's blatant violations of [Jeremy] Hutchinson's Fourth Amendment rights, intentional destruction of records, inexplicable failures to follow protocol, and duplicitous interrogation tactics require dismissal of the indictment." 

Jeremy Hutchinson, 44, resigned from the state Senate last summer after being indicted on eight counts of wire fraud and four counts of filing false tax returns. Prosecutors allege he stole campaign contributions, spending them on personal luxuries and expenses, and falsified state campaign finance reports and tax filings.

Jeremy Hutchinson has pleaded not guilty to the charges. He is among several former state legislators who have been convicted or accused of corruption since January 2017, when former state Rep. Micah Neal waived indictment and pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges related to the state's General Improvement Fund and Ecclesia College of Springdale. 

In the motion, Jeremy Hutchinson said his former girlfriend, unhappy over their split, stole his computer and other electronic devices in the summer of 2012. She then threatened tell the FBI that Hutchinson misused his senate campaign accounts to pay her for minimal campaign work and had that he'd been paid by a client to pass favorable legislation and "not for bona fide legal work."

According to the motion, the girlfriend followed through on her threat, setting in motion an investigation that would end in 2015, but reopen in April 2017 and result in an indictment in August 2018. 

The girlfriend, who is not named in the motion, provided the FBI with Hutchinson's devices, which investigators mirrored and used to access emails and other evidence without Hutchinson's consent, the motion said. It said investigators was well aware of the girlfriend's "personal animosity" toward Hutchinson, who evicted her from a condominium he paid for when he allegedly discovered her using and selling drugs.

The motion also said that the government eventually "destroyed the images of electronic devices that it had collected, including Mr. Hutchinson's laptop," which contained evidence in Hutchinson's favor.

The motion also alleges that investigators interviewed Hutchinson under false pretenses — that Hutchinson was cooperating in an investigation against a third party. It was during those interviews that Hutchinson, also an attorney, told investigators that a client, Milton Russell "Rusty" Cranford of Rogers, had told him of an attempt by Sen. Woods "to extort money from Mr. Cranford. The government began an investigation of Mr. Cranford shortly thereafter."

Cranford, a former lobbyist and executive at the nonprofit Preferred Family Healthcare Inc. of Springfield, Missouri, pleaded guilty in Missouri federal court in June to bribing Arkansas elected officials in what prosecutors called a "multimillion-dollar scheme." 

Cranford, pleading guilty to one count of federal program bribery, admitted that he and other Preferred Family executives paid bribes to former Woods, former Sen. Henry "Hank" Wilkins IV, a person identified in court documents as "Arkansas Senator A" and others, to "provide favorable legislative action for Cranford, his clients, and Preferred Family Healthcare," according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Western District of Missouri.

In admitting to bribery, Cranford said he paid "Arkansas Senator A" $500,000 between 2012 and 2017. At the time of Cranford's plea, Dudley acknowledged that while Hutchinson was the senator referred to as "Senator A," he was "confident" that Hutchinson "did nothing illegal or unethical." Hutchinson has not been charged with any crime related to his work for Preferred Family Healthcare.

Cranford has yet to be sentenced. Wilkins, 64, of Pine Bluff, pleaded guilty in April in federal court to conspiring to accept more than $80,000 in bribes. He has yet to be sentenced. Woods, 41, was sentenced in September to 220 months — more than 18 years — in prison for his role in a conspiracy to deliver kickbacks on state grants given to nonprofits at his direction. 



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