U.S. Supreme Court flatly denies crooked judge's petition to have bribery conviction purged

 June 4, 2024

The U.S. Supreme Court denied former Faulkner County Circuit Court Judge Mike Maggio's motion to dismiss his 2015 bribery conviction, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. The high court did so without comment, thus ending Maggio's legal journey in this case.

Maggio was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison in 2016 after pleading guilty to a bribery scheme. He served nearly half of his sentence and was released in 2021 but was seeking to have it wiped completely from his record, an earlier report from the news outlet said.

The case involved a conspiracy with then-state senator Gilbert Baker, who channeled donations from a Greenbrier nursing home to Maggio's campaign. That facility was facing a $5.2 million judgment from the family of a woman who died there due to negligence.

Baker would help get Maggio elected in exchange for his sway on the appeals court. However, the scheme collapsed, and both men were tried, though only Maggio was convicted.

The Bribes

The case all started with the death of Martha Bull in 2008, Litte Rock Public Radio reported. The woman, who was 76 at the time, was supposed to spend 30 days at the Greenbrier Nursing and Rehabilitation Center to recover from a mild stroke and illness.

Instead, Bull passed away just two weeks into her stay. The staff failed to do anything for her or seek medical attention as she screamed in pain and would ultimately die there.

Bull's family successfully sued the nursing home for $5.2 million in May 2013 with Maggio on the bench. Then, on July 8, 2013, Maggio presided at the facility's hearing requesting a reduced judgment or new trial.

That same day, nursing home owner Michael Morton wrote checks totaling $228,000 in donations. One of those checks included $30,000 that would go to Baker's political action group that would spend it on Maggio's campaign.

The checks were delivered to Maggio's home the very next day, and by July 10, 2013, the judgment had been reduced to $1 million. Maggio claimed he made the move as a matter of law as well as the bribes.

Another Twist

After the scheme came to light, Maggio was willing to cooperate with prosecutors to get a lighter sentence. However, he tried to withdraw his testimony in 2016 which forced the judge in his case to throw the book at him with the maximum 10-year sentence.

"I put drug dealers in prison for five, ten, twenty years for standing on a corner selling crack cocaine," U.S. District Judge Brian Miller said at the sentencing. "What’s worse: A drug dealer on the corner or a dirty judge? A dirty judge is far more harmful to society than a dope dealer."

Maggio's subsequent appeals went nowhere until he once again had another bite at the apple when Baker went on trial. In October 2021, Maggio would be released early after another trial, thanks to his testimony against Baker, though the jury failed to convict the state senator.

Still, Maggio will never have that conviction cleared from his record as he'd hoped, thanks to the latest decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. Instead, he will carry the conviction of a crime he has admitted to partaking in.

Judicial corruption is a problem, but at least the high court has firmly set down the rules that even judges aren't above the law. It's a win in the nation at a time when trust in the judicial system is on shaky ground.

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