Former Judge Pleads Guilty to Accepting Bribe During Campaign to Be Elected to the Arkansas Court of Appeals
WASHINGTON—A former state circuit judge in Arkansas pleaded guilty today for accepting a bribe in exchange for reducing a negligence jury verdict against a Conway, Arkansas, company.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and First Assistant United States Attorney Patrick C. Harris of the Eastern District of Arkansas made the announcement.
Michael A. Maggio, 53, of Conway, Arkansas, pleaded guilty to a one-count information charging him with bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds. A sentencing hearing before Chief U.S. District Judge Brian S. Miller of the Eastern District of Arkansas will be scheduled at a later date.
As part of his plea agreement, Maggio admitted that in 2013, he served as an elected circuit judge for the state of Arkansas, Twentieth Judicial District, Second Division, presiding over a civil matter in Faulkner County Circuit Court. The plaintiff in that matter, the estate of a decedent, filed a complaint alleging, among other things, that a company, its owner, and others had neglected and mistreated the decedent leading to the decedent’s death while the decedent was in their care. On May 16, 2013, a jury returned a verdict in the plaintiff’s favor, awarding damages against the sole-remaining defendant, the company, in the amount of $5.2 million. Approximately one month later, the company filed a motion for new trial or to reduce the amount of damages awarded by the jury to the plaintiff.
Maggio further admitted that he formally announced his candidacy for the Arkansas Court of Appeals on June 27, 2013, while the post-trial motions were pending. On July 10, 2013, Maggio entered an order reducing the verdict against the company to $1 million. Prior to that order, a fundraiser for Maggio’s campaign told Maggio that the company’s owner had committed money to support Maggio’s campaign. The fundraiser also communicated with Maggio regarding the pending post-trial motions. On July 9, 2013, the owner donated approximately $24,000 to Maggio’s campaign. As part of his plea, Maggio admitted that his decision to remit the judgment was improperly influenced by the donations that his campaign received from the company’s owner. Maggio further acknowledged that he attempted to delete text messages between the fundraiser and himself after the media became aware of the illicit contributions to his campaign.
The case was investigated by the FBI’s Little Rock Field Office, and is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Edward P. Sullivan of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Peters of the Eastern District of Arkansas.