LITTLE ROCK – Former Arkansas Treasurer Martha Shoffner was sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison on Friday following her conviction last year on federal bribery and extortion charges.
The Democrat was accused of steering state investments to a broker who gave her $36,000 in cash, some of which was delivered in a pie box. The 71-year-old resigned in 2013, days after she was arrested by FBI agents in a sting operation.
“It was wrong, it was unethical and it was a violation of the public’s trust,” Shoffner told U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes.
Sentencing guidelines had suggested a stiffer sentence, but Holmes said Shoffner had netted little from her crimes. Still, the judge said that because Shoffner broke the law as an elected official, it was appropriate that she spend time in prison.
He ordered her to report to a federal prison in Fort Worth, Texas, by Nov. 2.
Shoffner cried several times through the sentencing hearing. At one point, she apologized to the people of Arkansas and to her late parents, saying she had tarnished the family name.
Holmes ordered Shoffner to make restitution but did not impose a fine.
Defense lawyer Chuck Banks had argued that Shoffner should receive a sentence of 12 to 18 months, with half in-home detention, because of her age. Banks also said Shoffner’s faith, her remorse and the punishment of a prosecution that she’s “already endured” should be considered.
Federal prosecutors had told Holmes in May that a term of 15 to nearly 20 years in prison, as suggested by sentencing guidelines, was appropriate. But in court Friday, prosecutors said they would accept a term of between about 5 and 6 ½ years.
Outside court, they said they were satisfied with the sentence handed down.
“Today’s sentence sends a strong message that both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and my office are committed to investigating and prosecuting public corruption cases,” U.S. Attorney Chris Thyer said.
Shoffner was arrested in May 2013 after an FBI raid at her Newport home, where agents said they found $6,000 that was delivered in a pie box by the broker, who was cooperating with authorities. She resigned days later.
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