The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Sunday reported on recently released evidence compiled by the Justice Department, but previously under seal, in its investigation of former Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson and others in the long-running and productive public corruption probe.
As I indicated I’d do, I obtained the same documents from the U.S. attorney’s office this week. There are too voluminous to post in their entirety.
The D-G article covered the key disclosures. One was former Sen. Jon Woods’ reported effort to shake down admitted briber/lobbyist Rusty Cranford for more money, which Cranford resisted. Co-conspirator and former legislator Eddie Cooper corroborated the story Cranford gave to FBI this year in a separate FBI interview. These were “proffers” of information made as part of their agreement to cooperate with the government.
Other documents detail how Hutchinson’s tempestuous relationship with Julie McGee put him in the FBI’s sights. She squealed on his personal spending of campaign money, including payments to her, and she also triggered an investigation into whether the reported $690,000 he’d been paid in retainer fees by John Goodson’s Texarkana law firm amounted to bribes for legislative influence. Hutchinson steadfastly denied that, as has Goodson, though Hutchinson is quoted in the newly released documents as telling an FBI agent he’d done a poor job as a rainmaker for Goodson’s class action law firm. That investigation, the documents reveal, was closed with a finding of a lack of evidence to support the allegation.
The documents were released on order of Judge Kristine Baker.
The documents provide plenty of grist for a reality TV show — Hutchinson’s use of campaign money to support his mistress. Their fights, some described in police reports. Their makeups, including details of plans for a Caribbean marriage cruise. The information provided by his ex-wife, subpoenaed by federal authorities, including here her note to an FBI agent challenging the honesty of Hutchinson’s explanation for allegations made by McGee. The documents include many text messages, one by the ex-Mrs. Hutchinson referencing a private investigation into his extramarital activities before the divorce, and details of a property settlement in the divorce that he said added to his financial woes.
For the record, here’s the transcript of an interview of Rusty Cranford this year. Also, here’s a portion of Cooper’s interview. Cranford is in jail awaiting sentencing. Cooper is free, but also awaiting sentencing for his role in bribes, illegal campaign contributions and other activity by a nonprofit employer hoping to influence legislators to treat their health services company favorably. These are unsworn statements of people who pleaded guilty to felonies and hoping for favorable treatment at sentencing, it should be noted. Hutchinson has pleaded guilty, too. All are expected to help the government prosecute Tom and Bontiea Goss, the husband-wife team from Springfield, Mo., that once headed the agency, Preferred Family Healthcare.