Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Prosecutor: Don’t free former Arkansas lawmaker, Sen. Jake Files, halfway house in his future


A federal prosecutor asked a judge Tuesday to deny former state Sen. Jake Files’ request to be released immediately from prison to home confinement, saying Files is scheduled to be transferred to a Little Rock halfway house on or about Sept. 30.

The former lawmaker, who has served one year of an 18-month sentence on fraud and money-laundering charges, noted in a handwritten petition to U.S. District Judge P.K. Holmes that was filed Friday in Fort Smith that his official release date was Jan. 31, 2020.

Files asked Holmes to recalculate his sentence under a new federal law, the First Step Act of 2018, based on his clean record and model work in prison.

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In a five-page response, U.S. Attorney Duane “Dak” Kees countered that in July, “the Bureau of Prisons re-calculated Files’ release date under the First Step Act and adjusted his release date” to Sept. 30.

Now at a federal prison in El Reno, Okla., Files is scheduled to be released to the City of Faith halfway house in central Little Rock, which operates work-release programs for federal inmates.

The halfway house contracts with the Federal Bureau of Prisons to work with inmates who are nearing their release dates, according to the organization’s website. It has 104 beds and allows residents to work and take passes within a 150-mile radius.

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Kees also argued that the court lacks jurisdiction to grant Files’ request because of other issues.

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An Arkansas lawmaker for 12 years, including eight in the state Senate, the Fort Smith Republican pleaded guilty last year to taking almost $26,000 in state General Improvement Fund grant money for his personal and business use.

The grant was intended to help build a Fort Smith ballpark complex that is still idle and far from finished.

Files was sentenced in June of 2018 to 18 months in prison on each of three counts of bank fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. The sentences run concurrently. He also was ordered to pay $89,903.77 in restitution.

In his request for release to home confinement, Files said he has had no disciplinary problems in prison and has led worship services, counseled other inmates, read books, written extensively and earned a master gardener’s certificate.

Files cited “good time” earned and other issues under the First Step Act to argue that he is eligible for home release now.

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The federal prosecutor listed three additional reasons why he believes the court can’t grant Files’ request.

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The court lacks jurisdiction because Files “is challenging the earning or award of time credits, not the actual sentence imposed by this court,” Kees wrote.

Files didn’t show he has exhausted all available administrative remedies with the Bureau of Prisons and other agencies, the prosecutor wrote.

Kees also wrote that the relief Files seeks should be filed in the federal judicial district where he is imprisoned. The prosecutor went on to urge Holmes not to transfer Files’ request to the appropriate federal district court.

The minimum security camp at the Federal Correction Institution in El Reno, where Files is now, is under the jurisdiction of the U.S. District Court of Western Oklahoma, according to Kees.


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