Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Arkansas former Sen. Jonathan Woods loses another appeal in his bribery conviction

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Former Arkansas Sen. Jon Woods, serving an 18-year federal sentence for a bribery/kickback scheme he orchestrated as a state legislator, was rebuffed last week on a couple of appeals to the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.

In a two-sentence order Thursday, the 8th Circuit refused both a request for a rehearing of a three-judge panel’s affirmation of his conviction and his request that the appeal be heard en banc, or by all members of the 8th Circuit.

That leaves him with only a hail mary — a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, which hears only a few of the petitions it receives. No request from him appears today on the court docket.

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He’s currently being held in a federal transfer center in Oklahoma City, after beginning his sentence in a Texas prison. His transfer hasn’t been explained and his attorney hasn’t responded to my questions about the move. One criminal defense lawyer says prisoner transfers are sometimes arranged for those participating in ongoing investigations.

A trial is pending in Missouri for the kingpins of a health care company whose officials engaged in a variety of bribery and kickback schemes with legislators. Woods was linked to one scheme with its former lobbyist, but also convicted of taking kickbacks from the money he directed to Ecclesia College, a scheme that also produced convictions of another legislator, the college president and a friend of Woods. Might he now be cooperating to win a reduction in a sentence that otherwise will run until 2034?

Woods’ latest appeal continued to rest on an FBI agent’s wiping of information from a laptop. He contends there might have been exculpatory information. The courts have held that there was ample evidence to convict him without the use of the FBI agent.

The appeal also argued that the 8th Circuit had set a standard on the potentially exculpatory evidence that was at conflict with opinions in other circuits, sometimes a ground for the U.S. Supreme Court to consider a case.

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