Bobby McCallister of Benton, who resigned his circuit judgeship last week to settle a disciplinary case after his admission that he’d failed to file tax returns a number of years, yesterday pleaded no contest to a criminal charge in the case and received a probationary sentence as a first offender.
McCallister, 53, pleaded no contest to a single felony count of failure to file a state income tax return and was sentenced to four years on probation and fined $1,500. He was also ordered to file state income tax returns in 120 days for the years 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016.
He was sentenced under a law that defers a finding of guilt in the case. If he successfully completes probation he will be eligible for dismissal of the charge without a finding of guilt and expungement of the record.
Retired Judge David Laserwas appointed special judge in the case and Prosecutor David Gibbons of Russellville, who struck the deal with McCallister, handled the state case because of recusal of the local prosecutor in the Saline circuit court where McCallister had been judge.
McCalister has said he didn’t file the first year because he didn’t have the money and he “basically panicked.” In recent years, he said tax withholdings from his judicial pay might have been sufficient to cover taxes owed. But asked for a reason he didn’t file, he testified he didn’t have “one that makes any sense at all.” In addition to the state charge, he faces federal tax liens.
McCallister has been a judge for almost nine years, service that will entitle him at current pay of $163,200 to a retirement pay of around $47,000 when he reaches the age of 65. McCallister still retains his law license, though it’s likely his situation is under review by the Supreme Court Committee on Professional Conduct, which oversees lawyers. His probationary sentence enhances his chances of retaining a license to practice. He’s continued to be paid though suspended from judicial duties since news of the investigation broke in July.