Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood accomplished preliminary testimony this morning in the bribery trial of former Republican Get together chair and senator Gilbert Baker, who is accused of funneling money from nursing household proprietor Michael Morton to then-Circuit Judge Michael Maggio, who lessened a verdict towards a Morton nursing home in a negligence death by $4.2 million.
Wooden, a government witness, was questioned on cross-evaluation by
Assistant U.S. Lawyer Pat Harris defense attorney Blake Hendrix if she realized Maggio had implicated her in the bribery plan, for which Maggio pleaded responsible and is serving a 10-calendar year sentence. “I did not,” she explained. “But it does not surprise me.”
CORRECTION: I originally had the U.S. lawyer asking this query of Wood and the initial headline mirrored that. It was Baker’s protection lawyer, Blake Hendrix, a spokesman for Wooden said.
Maggio is scheduled to testify now and Judge Rate Marshall stopped even further questioning of Wood about Maggio’s documented allegation till soon after Maggio testifies. So she might be recalled.
Morton despatched $30,000 to Baker to place into PACs Baker had set up principally to reward Maggio’s race for Court docket of Appeals. He sent checks right from his various nursing houses to Wood’s campaign for Arkansas Supreme Court docket. Neither Morton nor Wooden has been charged. Wood received practically $50,000 from Morton and has continued to sit on cases involving his nursing homes.
Wood testified yesterday that she experienced not, as the defense has said, been consulted by Maggio on his choice to lessen the verdict from Morton, who testified he was enraged by the jury verdict. She claims she does not remember what she texted Baker about the day he been given checks for her and the PACs. The checks were being reduce the day Maggio reduced the verdict and gained by Baker the upcoming day. The texts with Baker were being erased from her cell phone and his phone. They say they can not remember the material. She also said she was unaware the Morton checks had been created to her before the authorized commencing of judicial campaign fund-boosting. She mentioned she’d have returned them. Baker altered the dates right before they went into her marketing campaign treasury.
Also scheduled to testify nowadays is Chris Stewart, a Little Rock attorney Baker engaged to set up the PACs to funnel cash to Maggio. There is been testimony about discrepancies in the particulars of the PACs.
Wooden also testified yesterday that even though she and Maggio had both been circuit judges in Faulkner County, they ended up not “personal friends.” Evaluate that with this element story about her in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 2012, in which she and Maggio traded friendly remarks about each and every other. The article, written on her transfer from circuit court docket to the Arkansas Court docket of Appeals, signifies Maggio did appear to her for assistance.
It is the social interaction that Wooden mentioned she’ll miss the most when she leaves at the close of the calendar year.
“I’m actually heading to miss my employees. I’ll in all probability cry that whole final week,” she reported.
Judge Mike Maggio jokes that he’s her driver for the reason that when they go to civic firm events, he delivers to get his car or truck.
“She’s like a rock star, … and they’re like, ‘Who are you?’ I say, ‘Oh, I’m her driver,’” Maggio claimed.
Wooden and Maggio joked again and forth in the hallway exterior their workplaces in the previous Presbyterian-church-turned-courtbuilding close to downtown Conway.
Her office environment is whole of framed photographs of her family members their canine, a Jack Russell terrier named Harley and even her personnel.
She picked up a tiny trophy sitting between the photographs.
It is the March Insanity award in a level of competition that consists of Maggio and equally their staffs to choose the most appropriate online games in the NCAA basketball tournament.
Wood is this year’s champion.
“I love beating Decide Maggio every single year,” she stated, laughing. (She conceded that he did earn as soon as.)
She parades the trophy by his workplace the moment in a whilst, just to antagonize him, she reported.
Maggio said Wooden is “an extremely great egg to place up with me and my joking, my mild-heartedness and my sensible jokes – and she has given me a couple of again.”
“In all seriousness, it has been really my distinct honor and enjoyment to provide with her at the demo-court docket stage and have the added reward of sharing the office-suite complicated,” he stated.
“Without a question, one particular of the factors that has built my job simpler is the point of owning her in near proximity to check out with on a every day foundation to bounce points off of and continue to keep us both sane.”
Maggio stated Wooden has a powerful do the job ethic and a motivation to do her most effective, whether it is in Teenager Court, where she volunteers one night time a 7 days, daily court, “or even a March Madness bracket.”
He stated although he will miss out on her, “I can not wait around to have her voice, and her vision and her viewpoint on the Court of Appeals, obtaining someone who has been at the demo-court docket level and understands what it is like.”
Wood is a prospect for re-election to the Supreme Courtroom subsequent 12 months. She has no announced opponent.
UPDATE: Maggio took the stand this morning. He entered the courtroom in shackles, although the jury was out, but they ended up removed. He wore a black T-shirt and trousers and claimed he didn’t want to get rid of his black facial area mask. The continuing was delayed to obtain a clear encounter mask so his face could be found.
He testified that he considered the marketing campaign contributions as a bribe. He claimed he lowered the verdict towards Morton’s dwelling for two causes: 1) that the verdict was way too superior and 2) to get the revenue.
He also that he had erased textual content messages with Rhonda Wood and Gilbert Baker at Wood’s suggestion. By the lunch crack, he experienced not been requested about her involvement, stated
by the governing administration before in the early morning, and cross-evaluation had not started.
He claimed prosecutors experienced not threatened to demand his spouse, as the defense has proposed, but he claimed a former protection counsel had explained that was a chance. He also stated information of a previous law firm and his state at the time contributed to his final decision to test to withdraw his guilty plea — “like Normal Flynn,” he claimed jokingly. But he stated he recognized that bribery did not just imply taking a bag of cash for an official motion.
UPDATE: Today’s testimony ended with Maggio even now on the stand. Cross-evaluation focused on his altering tales.