Former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson on Tuesday pleaded guilty to two political corruption charges: bribery and filing a false state tax return in 2011.
Hutchinson, 45, the nephew of Gov. Asa Hutchinson and son of former U.S. Sen. Tim Hutchinson, appeared in U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker’s courtroom. The move comes nearly a year after he was first indicted by a federal grand jury in Little Rock.
Federal prosecutors indicated that Hutchinson will also plead guilty on July 8 to a single charge of conspiracy to defraud the government in a Missouri indictment and agree to forfeit the proceeds of crimes committed with co-defendants who were employed by Preferred Family Healthcare of Springfield, Missouri. All other charges will be dismissed when he is sentenced, but no sentencing date has been set.
Judge Baker said she would dismiss as moot Hutchinson’s pending motion to dismiss a 12-count indictment brought by a Little Rock grand jury last August — or at least to suppress evidence found on a computer that his former mistress handed over to the FBI. That motion was the subject of a dramatic and sometimes sordid two-day hearing earlier this month.
Hutchinson’s attorney, Tim Dudley, would not comment or say whether his client’s plea deal includes an agreement to cooperate with other federal investigations.
The statutory maximum sentence for bribery is five years in federal prison, but Hutchinson’s plea agreement indicates a sentencing guideline range between 24 and 33 months. The maximum sentence for filing a false tax return is three years, but the agreement suggests a range of 10 to 16 months.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Mazzanti, a federal prosecutor for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Hutchinson will also be liable for restitution. That amount will be determined at his sentencing, a date for which has not been set.
The former lawmaker said little in court other than to make his guilty pleas. The bulk of the hearing involved Mazzanti reading details of Hutchinson’s crimes. Hutchinson acknowledged that Mazzanti’s recitation was correct, including the fact that he used campaign money for personal use.
On Monday, Hutchinson agreed to waive indictment and plead guilty to receiving bribes from an orthodontist, referred to in the charge as “Individual A” but fitting the description of Dr. Ben Burris, formerly of Fayetteville. Burris has not been charged with any crime and has declined to comment.
That charge was filed by federal prosecutors in Fayetteville, part of the Western District of Arkansas. It was transferred to the Eastern District for Tuesday’s hearing, in which Hutchinson also changed his plea in the Little Rock grand jury’s indictment.
Hutchinson, a lawyer, was also facing 12 counts of conspiracy and bribery as part of a wide-ranging investigation of Preferred Family Healthcare, a Medicaid provider of mental health services.
In all, Hutchinson had faced more than two dozen charges in the two states, including taking bribes, wire fraud and filing false tax returns. He announced his resignation from the state Senate in August after being indicted by a federal grand jury for spending campaign contributions on personal luxuries and expenses and falsifying state campaign finance reports and tax filings.
In the state Senate, Hutchinson represented District 33 in Pulaski and Saline counties.