After months of speculation concerning the fate of so-called “Senator A,” a federal grand jury in Little Rock indicted Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson on Thursday (Aug. 30) for allegedly devising a scheme to steal thousands of dollars in campaign contributions and then falsifying state campaign finance reports and tax filings as part of the scheme.
While Hutchinson did not directly say he would resign from the Arkansas Senate, a statement from Gov. Asa Hutchinson and from Jeremy’s attorneys indicated that the now indicted state senator would resign.
“Jeremy Hutchinson allegedly diverted contributions from his Arkansas State Senate campaigns to pay for an array of personal expenses,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski with the U.S. Justice Departament’s Criminal Division. “The charges in this case demonstrate the commitment of the Department and our law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute those involved in alleged campaign-related misconduct.”
Added U.S. Attorney Cody Hiland for the Eastern District for the U.S. District Court in Little Rock: “This indictment by the grand jury represents serious charges, and we look forward to preparing our case and presenting it to a jury of 12 people who we trust to do justice in this matter.”
Hutchinson, 44, a Little Rock attorney who is the son of former U.S. Sen. Tim Hutchinson, R-Ark., and the nephew of Gov. Asa Huchinson, has been a state senator since 2011 and first came to the State Capitol as a state representative in 2000. The 12-count indictment charges Hutchinson with eight counts of wire fraud and four counts of filing false tax returns. Hutchinson will appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia Harris on Sept. 18.
Benczkowski, Hiland and Special Agent in Charge Diane Upchurch of the FBI’s Little Rock Field Office, and Special Agent in Charge Tamera Cantu of IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS–CI) Dallas Field Office, made the announcement nearly three months after Hutchinson’s attorney Tim Dudley revealed that the Little Rock lawmaker was “Senator A” who was the target of the ongoing federal bribery probe.
Jeremy Hutchinson issued this statement following the indictment: “It has been the greatest honor of my life to represent the people in my Senate district. I worked very hard to serve all of my constituents, and I appreciate the many gestures of support I have received from friends, neighbors and colleagues over recent weeks. Nobody would want to find themselves in my present position, but I intend to defend myself and offer truthful evidence to a jury as soon as possible. I do not agree with decisions that have led us to this place, but I am powerless to control those decisions. However, I continue to believe in our system of justice and will trust that it will produce a fair and just result in this case.”
And this statement was provided by former U.S. Sen. Hutchinson: “I have faith in our courts and our system of justice. I have full faith in my son’s innocence of the allegations as set out in today’s indictment and believe that when the facts are fairly presented he will be exonerated.”
The office of Gov. Hutchinson issued this statement: “I just learned of the indictment against Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson for campaign expenditure and federal tax violations. This is a very sad day for everyone when a family member is charged. I have to look at this sad news as an uncle but also as a political leader in the state. As an uncle, my heart aches for Jeremy’s children and expanded family. This is a tough time, and it will not get any easier in the coming months.
“As a political leader, I know the United States Attorney always reminds the public that these charges are only allegations and he is presumed innocent, but the reality is that the charges alone undermine public confidence in our system of government. For that reason, Jeremy understands he needs to resign from the Senate, and I support that decision. He will need to devote his resources and energy in answering these allegations.”
Tim Dudley and Stephen Larson, attorneys for Jeremy Hutchinson, made the following statement after a grand jury returned an indictment naming Hutchinson.
“Every person charged with a crime is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in court. The allegations in today’s indictment are mere allegations. We look forward to vigorously disputing their accuracy very soon before a jury. For over five years Mr. Hutchinson cooperated fully with the government in this investigation. In light of that history, we all find it both frustrating and disappointing for him to be forced to face the inaccurate factual allegations contained in the indictment. It is therefore remarkable that he still finds himself defending these charges and under circumstances that will undoubtedly be explored soon in the litigation of this case, the government has irreparably impaired Mr. Hutchinson’s ability to defend himself by searching his computer without a warrant and then inexplicably destroying an image of his hard drive which possessed key exculpatory evidence.
“In light of these regrettable circumstances, Mr. Hutchinson intends to resign from the Arkansas Senate. His resignation is not an admission of wrongdoing nor should he be forced to resign because of an allegation. He is doing so simply to allow the people’s business in the State Capitol to go forward without unnecessary distraction.”
In a June 11 interview with Talk Business & Politics, Dudley had not seen any evidence presented by federal investigators to date that had shown the Little Rock senator benefited or received anything illegally in the performance of his duties in the Arkansas Senate. Dudley’s comments came in an interview following an announcement that former Arkansas lobbyist Milton “Rusty” Cranford, in a federal plea agreement, had implicated the Arkansas state senator for allegedly accepting more than $500,000 in cash and illegal inducements to provide services to Cranford and those associated with Springfield, Mo.-based Preferred Family Healthcare (PFH).
“Their basic premise is Jeremy Hutchinson was hired by PFH … to do legal work and was paid a retainer. And he did the work. And we can show that he earned his money,” Dudley said.
Timothy Garrison, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced earlier this summer that Cranford pleaded guilty to bribing Arkansas elected officials in a multi-million dollar scheme, and then, along with other charity executives, embezzled millions of dollars from the Missouri nonprofit.
Concerning Cranford’s plea agreement, Dudley said each allegation in the plea agreement concerning Hutchinson were routine legal activity unrelated to his position as an Arkansas legislator. In the Missouri indictment of Cranford, court filings alleged in exchange for money and other things of value, Hutchinson and other Arkansas lawmakers performed legislative acts that were favorable to Cranford and PFH executives, clients and associated entities.
As news of Hutchinson indictment spread rapidly on Friday afternoon, Democratic Party Chairman Michael Gray was the first political voice to call for the senator to resign from his position in the Arkansas Senate, where his first cousin, Sen. Jim Hendren, R-Sulphur Springs, will take over as the leader of the chamber in January 2019.
“Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson should immediately resign from the Arkansas Senate,” Gray said in a statement. “Today’s indictment reveals that he is clearly unfit to serve in elected office. Just as I called on Rep. Mickey Gates to resign, any state official indicated on criminal charges must resign because they cannot effectively represent their constituents. There should be no excuse for GOP Chairman Doyle Webb to defend this continued corruption in the legislature. He should join me in calling for the resignation of both Rep. Mickey Gates and Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson today.”
Doyle Webb, the chairman of the Republican Party of Arkansas and a former State Senator, added his response to the day’s events.
“The keystone of any political office is the preservation of public trust. While we always defend the right to a fair trial as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment, it is my hope that Senator Jeremy Hutchinson’s decision to resign his position immediately will help restore the confidence of all Arkansas voters,” he said.