RANDELL SHELTON

Political consultant Randell Shelton, former Sen. Jon Woods co-defendant, has been sentenced to 72 months in federal prison. Under sentencing guidelines, he could have gotten more than 10 years.

Judge Timothy Brooks set restitution at $660,698, the loss in state money. He also imposed a civil forfeiture of $664,000, which allows the taking of any assets Shelton might have. His prison time will be followed by three years of supervised release.  He was ordered to report to prison Oct. 8.

The judge faulted Shelton for speaking with pride for his work for Ecclesia College, which paid kickbacks to Shelton, Woods and Rep. Micah Neal for state money it received. Shelton was paid by Ecclesia through a firm he set up called Paradigm Strategic Consulting.

“The illusion that you created this company and you provided fund-raising services, does not go very far with this court,” Brooks said. The scheme was meant to funnel money to Woods. At the time, Ecclesia had its own professional fundraiser on staff. Brooks told Shelton that “whatever time you spent Googling” the names of potential donors for Ecclesia “wasn’t worth $50,000.” Shelton has contended he was a legitimate fund-raising consultant., but most of his success came in securing state grant money arranged by Woods and other legislators.

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The judge said Shelton’s words demonstrated remorse but that his acceptance of responsibility was lacking and his statement was carefully worded to not admit guilt. He gave him some credit for family testimony, but said that fact cut both ways. “Things shouldn’t have turned out this way with you. You had a very good foundation,” Brooks said. He said he thought the guideline range was a little high and Shelton’s crime didn’t rise to the level of Woods’. But he said deterrence was important.

Under federal rules, Shelton will have to serve most of the six years. He is expected to appeal.

Similar to yesterday in the Wood’s sentencing, the morning was filled with an evidentiary hearing concerning facts that were not considered during Shelton’s trial but were deemed relevant during sentencing, specifically concerning the alternative medicine nonprofit Arkansas Health Economic Research. We’ve written previously about the General Improvement Funds steered to this kooky outfit.

The other crucial issue has been trying to determine the loss amount, which is important for sentencing purposes. The defense made two key objections: They objected to the inclusion of the AHER and how the loss had been calculated. But the judge overruled objections in both instances.

The total loss amount for purposes of sentencing is $660,698, which includes GIF money funneled to Ecclesia and, to a much lesser degree, AHER. Like with Woods, it’s a significant point enhancement in terms of the federal guidelines to be convicted for misusing an amount this large.

Shelton addressed the court. He said he remained proud of the work he’d done with Ecclesia and the mission of the college. He said he was ashamed he contributed to its tarnishing. “If I could do anything different, it would be my misguided friendship with Jon Woods,” he said. Shelton was best man at Woods’ wedding. Woods also introduced him to his wife, he said. He asked for leniency.

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Shelton’s mother spoke for her son. She was emotional and said he was a good husband and great father and pleaded for mercy. The judge read letters testifying to his character as well.

Under sentencing guidelines accepted by Judge Timothy Brooks, Shelton accrued enough points for a sentence within a range of  121 to 151 months, for from 10 to 12 years. He departed downward to a term significantly less than the 18-plus years given Woods.

U.S. Attorney Dak Kees said in closing, “It doesn’t matter what part you played, you knew better.” He acknowledged Shelton was a middleman, rather than ringleader, but said, “You cannot commit these kinds of schemes without a middleman and he knew he was helping a public official break the law.”