You might have seen that Dr. Ben Burris, formerly of Fayetteville, was sentenced last week to a year and a day in federal prison for bribing former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson.
But if you were wondering why Hutchinson hasn’t been sentenced yet, so were we.
In June 2019, the 47-year-old Republican lawmaker from Little Rock — and a nephew of Gov. Asa Hutchinson — pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from Burris and other federal crimes.
“The court has not set a sentencing date,” according to a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Missouri, where Hutchinson pleaded guilty. “My understanding is that some co-defendants still do not have their cases resolved, and there is a trial later this year. It’s not unusual for the court to schedule sentencing hearings after all the defendants in a case are resolved.”
The other defendants in the case are Bontiea Bernedette Goss, 66, and her husband, Tommy Ray Goss, 66, both residents of Springfield, Missouri, and Boulder, Colorado. The Gosses are two former executives of Preferred Family Healthcare Inc. of Springfield.
Back in April 2019 the Gosses and Hutchinson were indicted by a federal grand jury over their alleged roles in a multimillion-dollar public corruption scheme that involved embezzlement, bribes and illegal campaign contributions to elected public officials in Missouri and Arkansas.
The trial for the Gosses has been delayed several times. It had been scheduled to start on Valentine’s Day, but it was postponed again.
The new trial date is Oct. 3, and that one finally might happen. U.S. Magistrate Judge David Rush wrote in bold type in his order: “absent the most extraordinary circumstances, no further continuances will be granted in this case.”
Burris, meanwhile, is set to report to federal prison no later than March 2. Burris, of Florida, will be on probation a year after he’s released. The orthodontist also will have to pay a $157,500 fine, which is the amount he paid Hutchinson between February 2014 and November 2016. Burris also provided Hutchinson’s children with free braces, with the intent of influencing Hutchinson’s official actions as a legislator.