Federal Judge Leon Holmes today granted a defense motion to separate two groups of charges filed against former Arkansas treasurer Martha Shoffner.
Shoffner was originally charged in June with taking payments from a bond salesman in return for state business and related charges were added in July. More recently, on Feb. 6, the Justice Department added 10 mail fraud charges to the original 14 charges that alleged Shoffner had used a credit card to pay for personal items with campaign money.
Shoffner’s attorney Chuck Banks asked that the charges be separated because it was prejudicial to try them together. The government argued that trying both batches of charges together was important to show a pattern of criminal intent. The judge sided with the defense.
His order said, in part:
Here, requiring Shoffner to go to trial on the ten counts of mail fraud on March 3 would certainly prejudice her inasmuch as she has not had an opportunity to prepare to defend against those charges. Contrary to the government’s argument, Shoffner is not required to give up her right to a speedy trial on the fourteen counts previously charged in order to avoid being forced to trial without time to prepare against new charges.
The motion to sever is therefore GRANTED. This case will proceed to trial on March 3, 2014, on the first fourteen counts of the superseding indictment. The ten counts charging mail fraud will be tried separately at a later date.