U.S. prosecutors argued today that former Circuit Judge Mike Maggio of Conway “failed to establish a fair and just reason to withdraw his plea of guilty.”
Maggio pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges in U.S. District Court last year but then filed a motion earlier this month to withdraw his plea. Maggio’s new attorney, James Hensley, originally argued that Maggio’s previous attorneys had given him bad advice in suggesting a guilty plea. However, in a new filing on Sunday, Hensley withdrew this claim about bad counsel and stated that Maggio was innocent, that the federal bribery statute was not applicable to Maggio’s alleged activities, and that “Maggio’s version of events has never changed.”
The government’s filing today in response largely restates points prosecutors have made previously: Maggio broke his plea deal by failing to cooperate with the government (potentially meaning a tougher sentence) and that’s the only reason he’s trying to back out of his plea now; the federal bribery statute has been broadly construed by the Supreme Court and Maggio’s argument that his purported actions don’t qualify is bunk. Prosecutors further argued that the evidence establishes a clear quid pro quo arrangement.
The government also responded to the claim made by Maggio’s attorneys that he is entirely innocent of any crime (even based on Maggio’s own statements that led to the guilty plea):
In essence, Maggio is trying to spin his criminal conduct as merely unethical. Maggio’s conduct is both criminal and unethical. Maggio’s underoath factual admissions make clear that he had far more than a conflict of interest – he had a criminal mind, and sought to elevate himself to the court of appeals by selling a verdict. With respect to Maggio’s “version of the events,” the United States has invited current counsel to review the evidence, including Maggio’s post-polygraph interview, but counsel has failed to do so.
“Maggio’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea is a clear attempt to escape the consequences of his criminal corruption and should be rejected,” prosecutors concluded.
The record indicates that Fort Smith nursing home owner Michael Morton gave campaign money to Maggio on the encouragement of former Republican Sen. Gilbert Baker. Maggio reduced a $5.2 million verdict against a Morton nursing home to $1 million. Neither Baker nor Morton have been charged with a crime. Both have said they did nothing wrong. Reading between the lines, it’s likely that Maggio’s alleged failure to live up to his plea agreement amounted to failure to provide the government sufficient information on Baker, Morton, or others involved.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Brian Miller postponed sentencing, originally schedule for tomorrow. Instead, Miller will consider Maggio’s motion to withdraw his plea. If Miller does not allow Maggio to withdraw his plea, a new sentencing date will be set on Friday. If he accepts the motion, on the other hand, the case will presumably go to trial.