LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Former State Senator Gilbert Baker has been indicted on allegations he bribed a former judge.
Baker was indicted on nine counts. Charges include conspiracy, bribery and honest services wire fraud. You can read the full indictment here.
Back in 2016, Circuit Court Judge Michael Maggio pleaded guilty to charges he took a bribe. Maggio has said he took money in the form of campaign contributions arranged by Baker to reduce a jury verdict in a nursing home negligence case from $5.2 million to $1 million.
The home was owned by Michael Morton of Fort Smith, who funneled campaign contributions to Maggio for a race for Court of Appeals. Morton has not been charged. He’s insisted he made legal campaign contributions, but not in return for Maggio’s action. He conceded in a recent magazine article that the time had an ill appearance.
The indictment details Baker had a consulting firm that funneled money from others to Maggio. The indictment doesn’t give names to other players, but they are well-known from events, such as Morton’s nursing home company. The indictment says Maggio and Baker conspired “with at least one other person” to benefit “Company A” and “Individual A.” Another lawyer helped Baker conceal Individual A’s involvement by setting up PACs to receive money to give to Maggio.
The indictment details a meeting by Baker with “Individual D” a lobbyist and consultant for a trade group that supported tort reform and which was helped by money provided by Baker from “Individual A.” The indictment also mentions “Individual E,” another candidate for judicial office, and “Individual F,” another political consultant.
In response to today’s federal indictment, attorneys Richard Watts and Bud Cummins released the following statement on behalf of Gilbert Baker:
“Mr. Baker has consistently maintained, including several times under sworn oath, that at no time did he ask Judge Mike Maggio or Mr. Michael Morton or anybody else to do anything improper or illegal. He has also consistently maintained that at no time did anyone ask him to do anything improper or illegal. All campaign contributions in 2013 were handled lawfully and were transparently reported in public records. After over five years of investigation, Mr. Baker is confident that the truth will finally be made known.”
Baker served in the Arkansas Senate from 2001 to 2013. He served District 30 in the Conway area. In the past he also served as the chairman of the Arkansas Republican party and had an unsuccessful bid for United States Senate in 2010.
Baker has been a lobbyist in recent years and retained a place as a tenured member of the UCA music faculty.
(The Arkansas Times contributed to this report)