Maggio Appears in Federal Court, Asks to Change Bribery Guilty Plea

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A year after entering a guilty plea to a federal bribery charge, former judge Mike Maggio appeared in federal court to argue for the chance to change his plea.

Former circuit judge Mike Maggio arrived to Little Rock’s federal courthouse in his typical style. A  black truck pulled up to the sidewalk, Maggio hopped out and hurriedly walked to the reach the doors without having to address questions or cameras.

Inside the courtroom, Federal Judge Brian Miller considered whether Maggio could withdraw his guilty plea to a federal bribery charge that he entered January 9, 2015.

“It would be hard for me to understand how a judge could say he didn’t understand the law and what was happening,” Miller said in court. “What I got from Mr. Maggio in court during the plea was that he understood the charge and he understood what he was doing.”

Maggio’s attorney initially argued that the former judge was supplied inadequate representation from his previous counsel. The attorney later withdrew that assertion, arguing instead that the federal law Maggio is charged with violating doesn’t apply to his situation.

James Henley, Maggio’s new lead attorney, argues that since Maggio did not handle federal funds and his decision to reduce the award had no impact on federal funds, the law doesn’t apply.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has argued that the law does apply, regardless of whether Maggio handled or impacted federal funding. Prosecutors further argued that Maggio’s motion to withdraw has no basis in fact or law, and that the only reason he was attempting to withdraw his plea is because he violated the terms of his plea agreement by failing a lie detector test.

“He pleaded guilty because he is guilty. He is not the victim here. He made the decision to take the bribe and reduce the judgment. He is simply trying to avoid the consequences of his own actions.”

Maggio pleaded guilty to taking bribes in the form of campaign contributions in exchange for reducing a jury award in a nursing home death lawsuit. The family of Martha Bull filed the lawsuit against the Greenbrier nursing home where she died, alleging neglect and abuse. A jury awarded the family more than $5 million, but Maggio reduced the award to $1 million.

He stated to the court during his plea that he reduced the award with the understanding that it was in exchange for $50,000 in campaign contributions from a thus-far unnamed Individual B, made possible by a middle man Individual A.

Martha Bull’s family members were inside the federal courtroom Friday, as Hensley told the court Maggio has suffered “humiliation and embarrassment” about what has gone on. Hensley added that Maggio “feels terrible about what happened.”

When asked how they felt regarding Hensley’s focus on Maggio’s emotions, Bull’s daughter Rosey Perkins told us, “We’ll save that for another day.”

Maggio didn’t have anything to say for himself as he left the courtroom. No comment to the public. No apologies. Just silence and a speedy exit.

Judge Miller expected that he would enter a written order on the motion to withdraw within the next couple of weeks.

“I’m just going to go ahead and tell you, if I find the law applies I will reject the request to withdraw. If I find that it does not apply, I’ll grant the request, and we’ll see where we go from there. But this will be totally driven by law.”

Maggio was scheduled to actually be sentenced on Friday. He was barred from ever holding a judicial seat in Arkansas by the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission.

To follow this story and all of Marci Manley’s coverage, click here for Facebook or here for Twitter.

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