Former Arkansas lawmaker pleads guilty in corruption case

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FILE – In this Aug. 18, 2015 file photo, state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Benton, speaks at the state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark. The former Arkansas lawmaker who is Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s nephew has pleaded guilty to accepting bribes and filing a false tax return Tuesday, June 25, 2019, as part of an agreement with federal prosecutors in a sprawling corruption probe. Federal prosecutors also said in an agreement read in court, that Hutchinson planned to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy in a separate federal case in Missouri where he’s been charged with accepting bribes from a nonprofit. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)

(7/8/19) LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A former Arkansas lawmaker who is the governor’s nephew admitted Monday to accepting thousands of dollars in bribes to help a health nonprofit as part of a plea deal in a sprawling federal corruption investigation.

Former Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson pleaded guilty in federal court in Missouri to one count of conspiracy to commit federal program bribery. Hutchinson admitted he was hired as outside counsel for Preferred Family Healthcare Inc. and in exchange took official action in the legislature to help the Springfield-based nonprofit.

Hutchinson admitted to holding up agency budgets, initiating legislative audits, sponsoring and voting for legislation that would help Preferred Family, according to his plea agreement. Hutchinson was paid more than $350,000 in charity funds and also received hotel rooms and Major League Baseball tickets paid for by the nonprofit.

Prosecutors agreed to seek the dismissal of other charges Hutchinson faced in the Missouri bribery scheme. He faces up to five years in prison without parole and a fine up to $250,000. A sentencing hearing has not been scheduled.

Hutchinson last month pleaded guilty to accepting bribes and filing a false tax return in a separate case. Hutchinson admitted that he took more than $10,000 in campaign funds for his personal use and didn’t report $20,000-per-month payments he received from one law firm and other sources of income he knowingly concealed from his taxes.

He also admitted in that case to accepting more than $150,000 from the co-owner of orthodontic clinics in exchange for efforts to change a dental practices law.

Hutchinson is the son of former U.S. Sen. Tim Hutchinson and Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s nephew.

Hutchinson, the former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is among several Arkansas lawmakers and lobbyists who have been ensnaredin federal corruption probes since early 2017. Hutchinson, 45, resigned from the Senate in August 2018 when he was first charged with spending campaign funds on personal expenses.

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