Burris-Hutchinson Trial Set for June

Burris-Hutchinson Trial Set for June
Former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson has admitted taking bribes from Dr. Ben Burris, charges for which Burris has pleaded not guilty. (Composite photo illustration)

You might have missed it, but a trial date has been set in the case of Dr. Ben Burris, the former Fayetteville orthodontist who is charged with bribing former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson.

The trial is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. on June 21 in U.S. District Court in Fayetteville, and it is expected to be a long one.

If you recall, the trial was supposed to have commenced on Oct. 13 before U.S. District Judge Timothy L. Brooks. But COVID-19 derailed that plan.

The trial is expected to last at least four weeks, and attorneys feared that someone involved in the proceeding might get COVID and be required to quarantine.

So attorneys on both sides had asked for a court date in 2021. In the joint motion to continue the case, attorneys also said that the case has generated mounds of documents.

“The indictment charges the defendant with conspiring to commit and committing honest services wire fraud,” according to the joint motion. “It is the product of a multi-year investigation and alleges that the defendant carried out a fraudulent scheme over the course of approximately two years involving various alleged official acts and bribe payments.”

The filing said the investigation has created “multiple terabytes of data and produced thousands of pages of interview and grand jury transcripts, as well as hundreds of interview memoranda.” Hundreds of exhibits are expected to be used at trial.

The government’s witness list includes more than 70 people, and Burris’ defense attorneys’ witness list includes another 30 people. And of the 100 witnesses expected, 35 of them don’t live in Arkansas, and some will be traveling from Florida, Texas, Arizona and Washington to testify, according to the joint motion.

Burris, who now lives in Florida, has pleaded not guilty. He is facing 14 counts of honest services wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud.

Burris is being represented by Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, which is based in Nashville, Tennessee, and has more than 270 attorneys in three states; the global firm Ropes & Gray; and the Wilkinson Law Firm of Bentonville. In June, attorney Bruce Singal of Boston was added to Burris’ defense team.

Burris is being prosecuted jointly by the U.S. attorney’s office in Fort Smith and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section.

Hutchinson, a lawyer and nephew of Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, has already admitted receiving bribes from Burris, but no date for sentencing him had been set.