Ex-judge can't take back his guilty plea in bribery case, court rules

Michael Maggio.

Michael Maggio.  (Fox 16)

A federal judge on Thursday denied a former Arkansas circuit judge's request to withdraw his guilty plea on a bribery charge.

Chief U.S. District Judge Brian S. Miller wrote in his ruling that the federal bribery law was correctly applied in Michael Maggio's case, that there was sufficient evidence against him and that the judge likely understood the charge when he pleaded guilty last year.

Miller scheduled Maggio's sentencing for March 24.

"Maggio was a Circuit Court Judge who essentially admitted that he sold his office by substantially reducing a jury verdict in exchange for campaign donations," Miller wrote. "He stated several times that he understood his rights and the waivers associated with his plea."

Prosecutors said in a filing last month that Maggio had violated his plea agreement by being uncooperative and failing a lie detector test when questioned about the campaign contributions. The former judge faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Miller asked attorneys in the case whether the bribery statute was correctly applied. Maggio's attorney James Hensley argued that the alleged bribe was not related to government business, which was required under the statute.

U.S. attorneys argued that as an elected actor of the state, Maggio's job as a judge was state business, regardless of whether his rulings were related to government actions.

The Associated Press left a message Thursday seeking comment from Hensley.

Maggio filed a motion Feb. 12 to withdraw his January 2015 plea to a charge that he had accepted campaign donations from an unnamed nursing home owner and a lobbyist in exchange for reducing a jury award in a negligence case involving one of the nursing home owner's facilities.

Maggio was accused of accepting the $50,000 donation two days before reducing the jury's $5.2 million award to $1 million. Prosecutors said the donation, which included $24,000 from the company's owner, was made in July 2013.

Maggio admitted in January 2015 that he had accepted the campaign donations from an unnamed nursing home owner and lobbyist in exchange for reducing the jury award.

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