Update: (Sept. 18)
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A former state senator pleaded not guilty in federal court Tuesday morning.
Jeremy Hutchinson pleaded not guilty to wire and tax fraud charges.
His trial is set for October 22, but reports say the date will likely be moved.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Hours after federal authorities announced his indictment, a state senator resigned his seat Friday.
“It has been a privilege to represent Senate District 33 in the Arkansas Senate and to serve the citizens of Arkansas in the Arkansas General Assembly. It has been the greatest honor of my life and I am so proud of the work we have done together during my tenure. Please accept this as notice of my resignation from the Arkansas Senate effective immediately. Thank you for your service to our great state,” said Jeremy Hutchinson in a letter released Friday afternoon.
Earlier that day, it was announced that a federal grand jury had indicted Hutchinson on wire and tax fraud charges.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (News release) – A federal grand jury indicted current Arkansas State Senator Jeremy Hutchinson for allegedly devising a scheme to steal thousands of dollars in campaign contributions-spending them on personal luxuries and expenses-and then falsifying state campaign finance reports and tax filings as part of the scheme.
Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Cody Hiland for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Special Agent in Charge Diane Upchurch of the FBI Little Rock Field Office, and Special Agent in Charge Tamera Cantu of IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Dallas Field Office, made the announcement after the indictment was unsealed today.
Hutchinson, 44, of Little Rock, has been a State Senator since 2011 and first became involved in elected politics as a State Representative in 2000. The 12-count indictment charges Hutchinson with eight counts of wire fraud and four counts of filing false tax returns. Hutchinson is scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia S. Harris on September 18 at 10 a.m.
“Jeremy Hutchinson allegedly diverted contributions from his Arkansas State Senate campaigns to pay for an array of personal expenses,” said Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski. “The charges in this case demonstrate the commitment of the Department and our law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute those involved in alleged campaign-related misconduct.”
“This indictment by the grand jury represents serious charges, and we look forward to preparing our case and presenting it to a jury of 12 people who we trust to do justice in this matter,” said U.S. Attorney Hiland.
“The indictment of Jeremy Hutchinson represents our commitment to vigorously investigate allegations of public corruption by elected officials,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Upchurch. “We appreciate the efforts of the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Eastern and Western Districts of Arkansas, IRS-CI, FBI, and the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section.”
“The grand jury’s indictment of Mr. Hutchinson demonstrates the collective resolve of IRS-CI to enforce our nation’s tax laws,” said IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge Cantu.
Counts one through eight of the indictment charge Hutchinson with wire fraud related to falsified state campaign finance reports and soliciting campaign donors with fraudulent intent. Counts nine through 12 charge Hutchinson with tax fraud for allegedly filing false tax returns from 2011 to 2014.
Here’s a list of things the federal officials say Sen. Hutchinson spent campaign funds on, including: vacations, groceries, gym memberships, school tuition for his kids and Netflix.
“Hutchinson stole, misappropriated, and converted for his own personal use campaign contributions and donations by:
debiting or spending approximately $41,000 directly from his campaign accounts on items and things that were for his own personal use, including, but not limited to: vacation, hotel, and other travel expenses; person food, groceries, and gas charges; gym membership fees; school tuition payments; person expenses incuurred at jewelry, clothing and other retail stores; Netflix fees; and utility payments made for a person residence;
withdrawing nearly $78,000 in case from his Campaign Accounts; wiring or transferring by check or other means approximately $41,000 from his Campaign Accounts to his Personal Accounts, and using the money for personal expenses; cashing five difference checks that were intended campaign contributions donations totaling approximately $6,400; and depositing approximately $42,000 in campaign contributions and donations intended for Hutchinson’s campaign accounts directly into his personal accounts and using the money for personal expenses.”
The maximum penalties for violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343 (wire fraud), as charged in counts one through eight is not more than 20 years’ imprisonment, a fine of not more than $250,000, and not more than three years of supervised release. A violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7206(1) (filing false tax return), as charged in counts nine through 12, carries a maximum penalty of three years’ imprisonment, a fine of not more than $100,000, together with the costs of prosecution, and not more than one year of supervised release.
The investigation into Hutchinson was conducted by the FBI and IRS-CI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Stephanie Mazzanti and Patrick Harris from the Eastern District of Arkansas, Assistant United States Attorney Ben Wulff from the Western District of Arkansas, and Trial Attorney Marco Palmieri of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section.
An indictment contains only allegations. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Statements from officials:
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson:
“I just learned of the indictment against Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson for campaign expenditure and federal tax violations. This is a very sad day for everyone when a family member is charged. I have to look at this sad news as an uncle but also as a political leader in the state.
“As an uncle, my heart aches for Jeremy’s children and expanded family. This is a tough time, and it will not get any easier in the coming months.
“As a political leader, I know the United States Attorney always reminds the public that these charges are only allegations and he is presumed innocent, but the reality is that the charges alone undermine public confidence in our system of government. For that reason, Jeremy understands he needs to resign from the Senate, and I support that decision. He will need to devote his resources and energy in answering these allegations.”
Tim Dudley and Stephen Larson, attorneys for Jeremy Hutchinson, made the following statement after a grand jury returned an indictment naming Hutchinson.
“Every person charged with a crime is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in court. The allegations in today’s indictment are mere allegations. We look forward to vigorously disputing their accuracy very soon before a jury.”
“For over five years Mr. Hutchinson cooperated fully with the government in this investigation. In light of that history, we all find it both frustrating and disappointing for him to be forced to face the inaccurate factual allegations contained in the indictment.” It is therefore remarkable that he still finds himself defending these charges and under circumstances that will undoubtedly be explored soon in the litigation of this case, the government has irreparably impaired Mr. Hutchinson’s ability to defend himself by searching his computer without a warrant and then inexplicably destroying an image of his hard drive which possessed key exculpatory evidence.”
“In light of these regrettable circumstances, Mr. Hutchinson intends to resign from the Arkansas Senate. His resignation is not an admission of wrongdoing nor should he be forced to resign because of an allegation. He is doing so simply to allow the people’s business in the State Capitol to go forward without unnecessary distraction.”
Jeremy Hutchinson’s statement in response to indictments returned by the Grand Jury in the Eastern District of Arkansas:
“It has been the greatest honor of my life to represent the people in my Senate district. I worked very hard to serve all of my constituents, and I appreciate the many gestures of support I have received from friends, neighbors and colleagues over recent weeks. Nobody would want to find themselves in my present position, but I intend to defend myself and offer truthful evidence to a jury as soon as possible. I do not agree with decisions that have led us to this place, but I am powerless to control those decisions. However, I continue to believe in our system of justice and will trust that it will produce a fair and just result in this case.”
Statement of former U.S. Senator Tim Hutchinson:
“I have faith in our courts and our system of justice. I have full faith in my son’s innocence of the allegations as set out in today’s indictment and believe that when the facts are fairly presented he will be exonerated.”
Statement of former U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins:
“We rely on the right to a jury trial to provide balance and fairness to complex criminal prosecutions, but in truth, the vast majority of those charged (95+%) plead guilty and never get any trial at all. Many of those plead guilty simply because they lack the financial resources to bear the real cost of a modern criminal defense in a complex matter. At the request of his friends, colleagues and family, I have agreed to serve as the trustee of a legal defense fund to receive contributions from those who want to insure that Jeremy Hutchinson has the resources necessary to mount an adequate defense.”
Arkansas Democratic Party Chairman Michael John Gray calls on Senator Jeremy Hutchinson to resign, along with Rep. Mickey Gates, who was charged with failing to pay taxes for six years back in June.
“Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson should immediately resign from the Arkansas Senate. Today’s indictment reveals that he is clearly unfit to serve in elected office. Just as I called on Rep. Mickey Gates to resign, any state official indicated on criminal charges must resign because they cannot effectively represent their constituents.
There should be no excuse for GOP Chairman Doyle Webb to defend this continued corruption in the legislature. He should join me in calling for the resignation of both Rep. Mickey Gates and Se. Jeremy Hutchinson today.”
Arkansas Republican Party Chairman Doyle Webb:
“The keystone of any political office is the preservation of public trust. While we will always defend the right to a fair trial as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment, it is my hope that Senator Jeremy Hutchinson’s decision to resign his position immediately will help restore the confidence of all Arkansas voters.”