A federal bribery trial against former state Sen. Gilbert Baker set to begin in October has been rescheduled.
The initial trial scheduled to take place on Feb. 25 was previously delayed because Baker and his attorney, J. Blake Hendrix, had not received any of the evidence against the former senator. U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr. moved to reset the trial for Oct. 28. However, last month, the defense requested a second continuance.
Hendrix said the “continuance is necessary” as he and Baker review an extensive amount of evidence as they prepare for trial. Baker’s attorney said the two need more time to review the case file.
“Baker has received discovery in electronic form. It is voluminous,” Hendrix’s motion reads in part. “To give the Court a sense, we have found it necessary to bring out part of the e-discovery, and that part comes to about 79,000 pages of printed material.”
Assistant U.S. attorneys Julie E. Peters and Patrick C. Harris did not object to moving the case to allow the defendant and his attorney more time to review the case file, according to court records.
The defense counsel on Baker’s behalf “asserts that a continuance best serves the ends of justice.”
“This interest, Baker contends, outweighs his and the public’s interests in a speedy trial,” the motion for continuance states.
Marshall ultimately signed an order Aug. 6 granting a continuance in the matter.
“Considering Baker’s diligence, the ends of justice are better served by granting a continuance so he can continue to review discovery, pursue pretrial matters, and prepare for trial or a plea,” the order granting Baker’s request reads in part.
The trial is now set to begin April 27 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas in Little Rock.
Baker 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.
The investigation against the former senator reveals he, Maggio and at least one other person reportedly 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.
Staff writer Marisa Hicks can be reached at email@example.com.