Michael A. Maggio, former Faulkner County Circuit Judge, pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge in District Court. Maggio admitted to accepting more than $10,000 in campaign contributions in exchange for reducing a nursing home negligence verdict.
The news release did not specify who the nursing home owner was but the description matches a lawsuit filed by the family of Martha Bull. She died in the Greenbrier Care Center owned by Michael Morton. The staff of the Care Center failed to follow a doctor’s order and hospitalize Bull, resulting in her death.
The jury returned a verdict against the Care Center of $5.2 million in damages. The company then filed a motion for remittitur. During this process Maggio formally announced his candidacy for the Arkansas Court of Appeals. After accepting campaign contributions from Morton, Maggio accepted the motion for remittitur and reduced judgment to $1 million.
Gilbert Baker, a lobbyist and campaign fund-raiser, acted as the middle man between Maggio and Morton. Before Maggio’s decision for remittitur, Baker told Maggio “win, lose, or draw, you have Morton’s support” with the intent of swaying Maggio’s decision. Maggio admitted to attempting to delete text messages between Baker and himself after evidence of Morton’s donations were found.
Last year the state Supreme Court removed Maggio from the bench after he admitted to disclosing confidential information on a sports website of an adoption by the South African actress Charlize Theron. His latest guilty plea will likely strip him of his law license.
The maximum penalty for the charge is 10 years in prison, 3 years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000. The terms of Maggio’s plea agreement suggest a guideline sentence of 30-37 months in prison. A sentencing date has not yet been announced.
Here is the link to see the plea agreement: http://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/opa/press-releases/attachments/2015/01/09/maggio_plea_agreement.pdf