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Fifth Amendment Rights Behind One Bank & Trust Trial Delay

2 min read

As you may have read in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the trial of former One Bank & Trust executives Brad Paul and Mike Heald, which was supposed to start last week, has been delayed.

Here are some more details for the legally curious.

It seems that the unusual plea deal struck by their former co-worker Gary Rickenbach is gumming up the works.

Rickenbach offered back in November to plead guilty to a greatly reduced charge of failing to report a felony, but only if U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker would agree to a sentence of probation rather than prison.

But Baker has not decided whether to accept that offer. (And back in March, Rickenbach and his lawyer, Bill James of Little Rock, asked her not to sentence him until after Heald and Paul were tried. That motion was denied as moot.)

As the start of the trial approached, Baker herself started to wonder about Rickenbach’s status. Since his plea has not been accepted, he is technically still a co-defendant. And as such, he still has the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

And that created a conflict with the U.S. attorney’s plan to use Rickenbach as a witness against Heald and Paul, which was also part of his pending plea agreement.

The prosecutor in the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela Jegley, ultimately joined Rickenbach in asking for the trial to be delayed and agreeing that he still has his right to remain silent. But she pointed out that defense counsel for Heald and Paul (Gary D. Corum and Lloyd W. “Tré” Kitchens III, respectively) waited an awfully long time to bring it up.

So now the trial has been reset for July 11. And since Rickenbach asked for it, Judge Baker specifically ordered that the delay not be counted when considering his right to a speedy trial.

But the defendants who were supposed to be tried last week objected to the delay, Rickenbach not testifying being a good thing from their point of view. So, Baker said, Heald and Paul “may address their rights to a speedy trial in future filings with the Court.”

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