Ted Suhl, the former operator of residential and out-patient mental health services, has lost a second bid to get a new trial on his conviction for paying bribes to influence state Human Services Department policies.
Court documents show a dramatic difference between the government and Suhl on what sentence he should receive. The sentencing is set for 10 a.m. Thursday.
Suhl argued that he’d recently received new evidence in the form of an FBI document.
The government obtained its conviction in this case based on the theory that Ted Suhl
sought to bribe Steve Jones to “put a stop to the referral process in Northeast Arkansas that was sending all of the referral process to Mid-South.”
According to the government, “Anita Castleberry, an employee from [the Arkansas Department of Human Services (ADHS)], came in and said she had pulled the information from 2011 that showed that Mid-South was receiving through these referrals Medicaid money of $10 million per year.”
It turns out, that was not true.
As the defense discovered for the first time one business day ago when the government disclosed an FBI memorandum memorializing a recent interview of Castleberry, “there are no ADHS referrals, only ADHS approvals.”
This newly discovered evidence warrants a new trial.
Federal Judge Billy Roy Wilson said it might be that Suhl’s bribes “did not affect ADHS actions, but that is irrelevant — the jury found that he intended to influence ADHS policies by paying bribes.” The argument by Suhl over the meaning of “referral” versus “approval” was just “semantics,” not new evidence, he said.
Suhl’s attorneys have said he will appeal his conviction July 20 on four bribery counts. He remains free at this point.
In the meanwhile, the government and Suhl have filed memorandums on what sentence Suhl should receive. The government noted that had put Steven Jones, a DHS deputy director and former legislator, on his “illicit” payroll and used that connection to help $1.8 million in profits to his businesses over three years. He paid more than one bribe. Using enhancements for multiple bribes, the size of the profit, the use of a high-level official and obstruction of justice, the government argued for a sentence of 188 to 235 months, or roughly 15 to 20 years.
Suhl’s attorneys objected, noting that Suhl’s two admitted co-conspirators, Jones and Phillip Carter, a former West Memphis official, got 24- and 30-month sentences. They said:
Mr. Suhl recognizes that his convictions are serious. That is why they correspond to a substantial term of imprisonment under the Sentencing Guidelines notwithstanding that he has never before been found guilty of any crime. He does not shy away from the fact that, having put the government to its proof at trial, basic fairness dictates that his sentence should be greater – within reasonable limits – than those of Mr. Carter and Mr. Jones, both of whom received sentencing reductions for acceptance of responsibility. Mr. Suhl respectfully submits that a term of imprisonment of 33 months is “sufficient, but not greater than necessary, to comply with the purposes” of sentencing.