Mike Maggio, the former judge serving a 10-year sentence for pleading guilty to taking a bribe to reduce a $5.2 million nursing home negligence verdict, filed a sealed motion Wednesday in federal court.
Maggio, 60, has no appeal pending. The guess is that this is a motion for a reduction of Maggio’s sentence in return for his cooperation as a government witness in the trial of Gilbert Baker. Baker was charged with bribing Maggio, in the form of campaign contributions from nursing home owner Michael Morton, who was the beneficiary of the verdict reduction.
Baker’s trial ended in an acquittal on the central conspiracy charge against Baker in the bribery scheme. A mistrial was declared on eight remaining counts, most pertaining to use of the mails to deliver money to PACs Baker created to send Morton’s money along to Maggio. Morton was not charged.
Judge Price Marshall has said the government must decide by Monday if it will retry Baker. If it decides to retry him, Maggio would be a witness again. In addition to seven counts related to money transfers, one conspiracy charge turned on the fact that federal money was received by the court system in which Maggio worked in Conway.
So the question: Is a motion from Maggio a signal that the decision on a retrial has been made? That Maggio’s work is done? That Baker won’t be retried?
That would be good news for Baker. What it means for Maggio isn’t clear. He was generally viewed as a poor witness in the case, though he did say he’d come to understand that he was expected to reduce the judgment against Morton (who’s been charged with no crime) and that the campaign contributions amounted to bribes to accomplish this. Perhaps, the government’s theory went, Baker was the sole briber, getting this done to stay in good graces who paid Baker and others to work on tort reform issues at the legislature.
Morton, who testified at the trial, and Baker, who did not, have said these were just legal contributions to a good candidate.
The trial, however, turned up lots of evidence of ethically dubious and even illegal behavior, such as straw contributions to candidates and almost $50,000 in checks cut for Rhonda Wood, now a member of the Arkansas Supreme Court, before campaign fund-raising legally could begin for judicial races. Dates on the checks were altered so that they would appear written during the legal period before deposit in her account. Wood, who also testified, has said she knew nothing about this skulduggery by Baker, though they both erased numerous text messages to each other during the critical time period in 2013.
Maggio’s sentence is scheduled to run through January 2026. He is not currently in a federal prison, according to Bureau of Prison records. He may be housed in a facility to which federal witnesses are moved when they are participating in trials.