The plea agreements entered by former Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson on a tax charge and a bribery charge are now on file.
In both cases, addendums were included that were filed under seal. These would detail the extent to which Hutchinson has agreed to cooperate in other cases, if at all.
The agreements are identical, consolidating facts underlying the separate cases.
Here’s the agreement on his plea to a single count of filing a false income tax return for 2011.
Here’s the agreement on his plea to a single count of conspiring to take bribes from an orthodontist to influence legislation.
The agreements detail his work with an unidentified orthodontist, though easily identified through events at the time as someone who’d run afoul of regulators for using dental hygienists to do teeth cleaning and seeking to change state rules to allow it. He enlisted Hutchinson to put pressure on the Board of Dental Examiners. From the narrative:
On or about February 11, 2014, Individual A sent a text message to Person A and others stating, “The chair of the Arkansas state legislature’s budgetary commission just told us he will put a freeze on the [ASBDE] budget- TODAY!” Person A responded by asking, “Who is the chair?”, to which Individual A stated, “Jeremy Hutchinson.”
On or about February 11, 2014, HUTCHINSON, as a member of the Senate Joint Budget Committee, placed a hold on the budget appropriation for the ASBDE.
On or about February 11, 2014, HUTCHINSON, Individual A, and Employee A hosted a dinner at a restaurant in Little Rock, Arkansas, attended by several Arkansas legislators invited by HUTCHINSON, and others, for the purpose of discussing Individual A’s legislative objectives.
On or about February 20, 2014, Individual A sent a text message to Person B stating, “We own the dental board. Call me.”
On or about February 20, 2014, Individual A sent a text message to Person C, stating, “The [ASBDE] has rolled over already and agreed with our guy that they need to rewrite the entire dental practice act. We own them. I’m kinda disappointed that they quit so soon. Pansies.”
On or about February 27, 2014, Individual A sent HUTCHINSON and Employee A an email with the subject “Legislative Objectives.” The email contained a list titled “Legislative Objectives” that had seven items. The first item on the list was “Remove specialty restrictions because they are stupid and contrary to logic and the public good.” The sixth item on the list stated, “Allow experienced hygienists to perform reversible procedures and X-ray exams without a supervising dentist.”
On or about February 27, 2014, HUTCHINSON, Individual A Employee A, and others met for dinner at a restaurant in Little Rock, Arkansas. During the dinner, HUTCHINSON, Individual A, and Employee A discussed Individual A’s legislative objectives and hiring HUTCHINSON. During this conversation, HUTCHINSON explained that as part of the
arrangement that there needed to be real legal work. The purpose of the legal work was to conceal the true nature of the relationship, that is, HUTCHINSON would be paid to carry out Individual A’s legislative objectives.
On or about February 28, 2014, Individual A caused check number 2284 on the Centennial Bank account for Entity B in the amount of $20,000 to be issued to Hutchinson Law Firm.
The narrative continues with details on more e-mails and checks and Hutchinson’s subsequent introduction of relevant legislation and a proposal to study dental regulation. But complications arose with legal work not related to legislation.
On or about April 8, 2016, Individual A sent a text message to HUTCHINSON stating “I’m in meetings all day today and tomorrow but I gotta tell you that I’m getting more and more frustrated with our arrangement.” HUTCHINSON responded, “Really? What can I do to improve that?” Individual A answered HUTCHINSON stating, “I haven’t heard from you about [legal matter] or about the teamlinks or about visiting with legislators about the DPA. I really need the legislature to stop the board from requiring only SR TA for dental licensure. I know you told [Person D] about the plumber deal but that’s all I heard. 5k a month a 200/hr is 25 hours.
I’m happy to pay you but I need to get some ROI man like I told you a few weeks ago. If I’m missing what you’re doing pis educate me.” HUTCHINSON responded, “I’ve been talking to [Person D] about the suit. I’m trying to add to the complaint that the land is yours through adverse possession but I need to know when the house was built. She was looking for that. I have asked everyone about the cost of teamlinks. No one knew but they are checking for me. I will follow up today on that.”
Individual A responded, “Thanks. What can we do about the state of Arkansas restricting the dental boards they will accept for licensure.” HUTCHINSON responded, “We have legislation that will do that. It’s being heard in January of next year.” Individual A responded, “Cool.”
In or about August 2016, in an effort to conceal his role in the conspiracy, HUTCHINSON contacted Lobbyist A, who was the lobbyist hired by a national interest group that was supporting ISP-2015-154, and told Lobbyist A that he no longer wanted to carry the legislation. Lobbyist A then recruited Representative A to carry ISP-2015-154.
The new representative got the interim study approved, but Individual A continued to be unhappy with Hutchinson’s other legal work, or lack of it. The events detailed here, including the private legal work on a land dispute, fit those in the public record about an orthodontist, Dr. Ben Burris, who once had offices in several Arkansas cities and a home in Fayetteville. He also spoke publicly about limits placed on his dental practice by state rules. He is neither named nor charged in any of the Hutchinson cases and apparently now practices in Florida. I’ve tried to reach him by phone or e-mail, without success so far. Burris wrote himself about changes in dental rules after a four-year battle.
The story continues
On or about November 18, 2016, Individual A sent a text to HUTCHINSON stating, “Why do I have to solve the problem with the neighbor? I pay you a lot of money a month for ‘full service’? Dude I don’t think this is working out. You never get back to us you never follow through and I’m tired of it. Get this neighbor stuff done THIS MONTH or I’m not paying you for November or ever again and I’ll let the rose law firm handle it. I am tired of it Jeremy. You’re a nice guy but dammit I get tired of chasing you. My wife is at her wits end. It’s a full time job to chase you. Get this done or we are done. Done as of October 31.”
On or about January 23, 2017, ISP-2015-154 was filed as House Bill 1250 (HB 1250) and included the removal of the specialist restriction from the Dental Practices Act.
On or about March 7, 2017, in an effort to conceal his role in the conspiracy,
HUTCHINSON filed a notice of conflict with the Secretary of the Senate stating, “Pursuant to Senate Rule 24, I am disclosing I represented a client at one time who could be affected by House Bill No. 1250. I will recuse myself from voting on this piece of legislation.”
On or about March 15, 2017, HB 1250 was signed into law, becoming Act 489 of 2017.
After the initial $20,000 payment from Entity B, Individual A directed the following payments to HUTCHINSON via the Hutchinson Law Firm: $40,000 in payments from Entity A on or between May 2014 and December 2014; $35,000 in payments from Entity D on or between January 2015 and August 2015; and $62,500 in payments from Entity C on or between October 2015 and November 2016. Additionally, Individual A provided three of HUTCHINSON’s close family members with free orthodontic treatment with a retail value of approximately $15,000, as well as other things of value.
HUTCHINSON understood that Individual A hired him as outside counsel for his
companies because of his position as an elected official. HUTCHINSON was provided legal work to conceal the true nature of this arrangement. As part of this arrangement, HUTCHINSON pushed Individual A’s legislative objectives by filing SB 143, referring SB 143 for interim study, and filing ISP-2015-154, which later became Act 489 of 2017. While HUTCHINSON did perform legal work for Individual A, he would never have been retained if not for his position as an elected official.
Rep. Michelle Gray and Sen. Lance Eads ended as sponsors of the legislation.
The agreements note they are part of a “global settlement” including a plea yet to come in a bribery case in Missouri. He’s to enter a plea in that case July 8 in Springfield. It reveals he’ll plead guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit bribery in that case, the first count in this extensive superseding indictment. It says he and other legislators took bribes, sometimes disguised as legal fees, to send money and favorable legislative action to Springfield-based PFH.
Though the agreements carry stipulations about potential sentences, the government is free to argue for departures upward or downward from sentencing guidelines. Fines and restitution will be part of the sentences
In the tax charge, Hutchinson admits he received $20,000 a month from an unidentified law firm — identified in earlier court hearings as John Goodson’s law firm in Texarkana — that was not included in his reported $121,000 in income on his federal tax return for 2011. He also admitted taking more than $10,000 from his campaign funds,.