A federal judge agreed Thursday to delay a bribery trial against a former Arkansas senator.
Former state Sen. Gilbert Baker initially was scheduled to stand trial Feb. 25 in the U.s. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas in Little Rock after he was indicted in early January for allegedly conspiring to bribe former 20th Judicial District Circuit Judge Michael Maggio.
Baker, 62, of Conway pleaded not guilty Jan. 24 to federal conspiracy, bribery and wire fraud charges.
On Monday, a motion to postpone the case was filed by J. Blake Hendrix, who represents Baker. Hendrix pointed out in the motion that a continuance was necessary to adequately prepare for trial because the defense had yet to receive evidence against Baker to review.
"A continuance is necessary in this case. Baker has received no discovery from the government," the motion reads, adding that it is necessary to push aside speedy trial requirements in order to serve justice in Baker's case.
In circumstances such that moving forward quickly with a trial that would cause "a miscarriage of justice" or also when a case is unique or "complex," in becomes unreasonable to "deny the defendant continuity of counsel or a reasonable time for effective preparation, taking into account the exercise of due diligence," the motion states.
"Baker asserts that a continuance best serves the ends of justice," Hendrix wrote on his client's behalf. "this interest, Baker contends, outweighs his and the public's interests in a speedy trial."
U.S. attorneys Julie E. Peters and Patrick C. Harris did not object to Baker's request and on Thursday, a U.S. district judge agreed to delay the former senator's trial to October.
U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr. acknowledged that it is necessary for Baker and his counsel to have evidence to review to prepare for trial.
"Considering Baker's diligence, the ends of justice are better served by granting a continuance so he can receive and review discovery, pursue pretrial matters and prepare for trial or a plea," the order granting Baker's request reads in part.
The indictment against Baker was filed in the U.S. District Court in Little Rock on Jan. 10. The investigation against the former senator reveals he, Maggio and at least one other person schemed together from May 2013 to June 2014.
″[The three] did knowingly and unlawfully conspire, confederate, and agree together and with each other: to corruptly give, offer, and agree to give, anything of value to any person, intending to influence and reward Maggio [...] in connection with a business, transaction, or series of transactions of $5,000 or more of the State of Arkansas,” the documents state.
Baker and the other two devised a schedule to fraud, trick and “deprive” Arkansas residents of their “right to honest services of Maggio,” according to the indictment.
“It was a purpose of the conspiracy for [Baker] and Maggio to enrich themselves, LRM Consulting and Company A [a nursing home and rehabilitation center in Faulkner County] by providing campaign contributions to Maggio from Individual A [owner of Company A],” the documents further state.
In addition, their purpose was to conspire to hide, conceal and cover up the nature and scope of Baker’s dealings with Maggio and the center’s owner including the campaign contributions and its source and nature, the indictment states.
Maggio is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for previously pleading guilty to a bribery charge. Recently, he was relocated to an undisclosed location, hinting that he could be talking with federal prosecutors in hopes of receiving a reduced sentence.
Baker currently faces up to five years in prison regarding the conspiracy charge, up to 10 years in prison for the bribery charge and up to 20 years in prison on each of the seven wire-fraud counts filed against him.
The trial against Baker is now set to begin at 9:30 a.m. Oct. 28.