Arkansas Supreme Court docket Justice Rhonda Wooden finished first testimony this morning in the bribery trial of former Republican Party chair and senator Gilbert Baker, who is accused of funneling money from nursing property proprietor Michael Morton to then-Circuit Decide Michael Maggio, who decreased a verdict from a Morton nursing dwelling in a negligence demise by $4.2 million.
Wooden, a federal government witness, was asked on cross-examination by
Assistant U.S. Legal professional Pat Harris defense lawyer Blake Hendrix if she realized Maggio had implicated her in the bribery scheme, for which Maggio pleaded guilty and is serving a 10-year sentence. “I did not,” she stated. “But it doesn’t surprise me.”
CORRECTION: I originally experienced the U.S. legal professional asking this concern of Wooden and the unique headline reflected that. It was Baker’s protection legal professional, Blake Hendrix, a spokesman for Wood said.
Maggio is scheduled to testify these days and Choose Price tag Marshall stopped additional questioning of Wood about Maggio’s described allegation until finally immediately after Maggio testifies. So she may perhaps be recalled.
Morton sent $30,000 to Baker to place into PACs Baker had established up largely to advantage Maggio’s race for Court docket of Appeals. He despatched checks straight from his several nursing residences to Wood’s campaign for Arkansas Supreme Court. Neither Morton nor Wood has been charged. Wooden received pretty much $50,000 from Morton and has continued to sit on scenarios involving his nursing residences.
Wooden testified yesterday that she had not, as the protection has said, been consulted by Maggio on his decision to reduce the verdict versus Morton, who testified he was enraged by the jury verdict. She suggests she does not don’t forget what she texted Baker about the working day he obtained checks for her and the PACs. The checks were being minimize the working day Maggio lessened the verdict and been given by Baker the upcoming day. The texts with Baker had been erased from her cellphone and his telephone. They say they cannot don’t forget the content. She also said she was unaware the Morton checks experienced been created to her in advance of the authorized starting of judicial campaign fund-raising. She said she’d have returned them. Baker altered the dates before they went into her marketing campaign treasury.
Also scheduled to testify today is Chris Stewart, a Very little Rock lawyer Baker engaged to established up the PACs to funnel cash to Maggio. There’s been testimony about discrepancies in the aspects of the PACs.
Wood also testified yesterday that though she and Maggio experienced both of those been circuit judges in Faulkner County, they were being not “personal close friends.” Assess that with this feature tale about her in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 2012, in which she and Maggio traded friendly remarks about each other. The write-up, published on her transfer from circuit court docket to the Arkansas Courtroom of Appeals, indicates Maggio did search to her for information.
It is the social conversation that Wood mentioned she’ll pass up the most when she leaves at the close of the calendar year.
“I’m seriously heading to miss my team. I’ll likely cry that entire last week,” she stated.
Judge Mike Maggio jokes that he’s her driver due to the fact when they go to civic firm functions, he delivers to consider his automobile.
“She’s like a rock star, … and they are like, ‘Who are you?’ I say, ‘Oh, I’m her driver,’” Maggio explained.
Wood and Maggio joked back and forth in the hallway outside their workplaces in the old Presbyterian-church-turned-courtbuilding near downtown Conway.
Her business office is full of framed shots of her spouse and children their pet, a Jack Russell terrier named Harley and even her staff.
She picked up a modest trophy sitting among the photos.
It’s the March Madness award in a opposition that includes Maggio and both their staffs to select the most suitable games in the NCAA basketball match.
Wood is this year’s winner.
“I adore beating Judge Maggio every calendar year,” she mentioned, laughing. (She conceded that he did win when.)
She parades the trophy by his business office as soon as in a although, just to antagonize him, she reported.
Maggio claimed Wooden is “an very good egg to put up with me and my joking, my light-heartedness and my useful jokes – and she has given me a couple of again.”
“In all seriousness, it has been genuinely my distinct honor and enjoyment to provide with her at the trial-courtroom stage and have the added bonus of sharing the office environment-suite complex,” he reported.
“Without a question, one of the matters that has built my position less complicated is the truth of getting her in close proximity to stop by with on a everyday foundation to bounce items off of and retain us equally sane.”
Maggio mentioned Wooden has a powerful work ethic and a wish to do her finest, regardless of whether it is in Teen Court, in which she volunteers a single night time a week, day-to-day courtroom, “or even a March Insanity bracket.”
He claimed despite the fact that he will skip her, “I can’t wait to have her voice, and her eyesight and her viewpoint on the Court of Appeals, having any individual who has been at the demo-courtroom level and knows what it is like.”
Wooden is a applicant for re-election to the Supreme Court docket up coming yr. She has no declared opponent.
UPDATE: Maggio took the stand this early morning. He entered the courtroom in shackles, although the jury was out, but they ended up taken off. He wore a black T-shirt and trousers and stated he didn’t want to clear away his black deal with mask. The proceeding was delayed to get hold of a distinct confront mask so his face could be seen.
He testified that he seen the campaign contributions as a bribe. He said he reduced the verdict versus Morton’s property for two motives: 1) that the verdict was far too large and 2) to get the dollars.
He also that he experienced erased textual content messages with Rhonda Wooden and Gilbert Baker at Wood’s suggestion. By the lunch crack, he had not been questioned about her involvement, outlined
by the governing administration before in the early morning, and cross-assessment experienced not started.
He reported prosecutors experienced not threatened to demand his wife, as the protection has proposed, but he stated a former defense counsel had stated that was a likelihood. He also reported assistance of a former lawyer and his state at the time contributed to his conclusion to try out to withdraw his guilty plea — “like General Flynn,” he explained jokingly. But he said he recognized that bribery did not just necessarily mean getting a bag of income for an official action.
UPDATE: Today’s testimony ended with Maggio still on the stand. Cross-assessment centered on his switching tales.