3 p.m. revision
Lu Hardin, former president of the University of Central Arkansas, was sentenced Monday to five years probation following his guilty plea in March to wire fraud and money laundering.
Hardin was charged with falsifying letters to the university’s Board of Trustees in order to secure an early withdrawal from a $300,000 bonus in April 2008.
Prosecutor Pat Harris addressed Federal Judge James Moody and asked that the judge consider the sentencing memorandum that Hardin’s attorney Chuck Banks provided to the court because of assistance Hardin has given his office.
"I am requesting that your honor consider the reduced guideline range for sentencing in this case," he said. "Mr. Hardin has provided information on another investigation and has worked with members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in reference to that case. I am not sure if the case will yield prosecution but his cooperation has been consistent and based on that we are the court to consider a reduced range for sentencing."
Banks addressed the court and told Moody that his client was in court on Monday with a great amount of gratitude and humility.
"My client is here with a great amount of gratitude and humility," Banks said. "He has gratitude for being able to have served at UCA and he has humility and is acutely sorry for the decisions and deeds that have him here today."
Banks also outlined the reasons why he was asking Moody to go outside of the sentencing guidelines and impose probation for Hardin.
"My client has lived an extraordinary life," Banks explained. "He is not without flaws but I ask you to consider the factors of a life well lived. There was a constant theme in the character letters that people sent you regarding my client and that is they described the real Lu Hardin, the man they knew before he developed an addiction to gambling. His judgment and wrongful deeds are not excusable, but his actions speak to the kind of person he is."
Banks went on to say that he had interviewed all but three of the members of the UCA Board of Trustees, who told him that Hardin was responsible for many outstanding achievements the school earned.
"My client believes in higher learning and education was always important to him," Banks said. "The trustees that I spoke with will tell you that he was responsible for many achievements the school accomplished, including raising enrollment by 80 percent over seven years and garnering many seven-figure endowments for the school. He continued to teach after becoming president of the school and had waiting lists for students wanting to take his classes. He mentored many people and spent a lifetime helping others in whatever capacity he could."
Hardin himself addressed the court prior to sentencing and stated that he was "remorseful beyond words" about what he had done.
"I have been extremely blessed to do what I loved," he said. I still love UCA and I miss it greatly. I am remorseful beyond words for my actions. My conduct was not up to my standards and I apologize to UCA, my family and friends for it. Probably 12 years ago my wife and I were on vacation and she asked me to try the slot machines with her and I loved it from the beginning. It grew into a serious problem and I have had to deal with that. I am a member of Gamblers Anonymous and have some very dear friends that have helped me with my struggles. I am asking for consideration and probation because I am ready to use whatever abilities I have to help others. I humbly accept any decision but I am requesting probation for my actions."
Moody acknowledged that the sentencing guidelines are a starting point and he was entitled to go beyond them if he felt that the situation warranted it. He told the court he believed going beyond the guidelines was warranted based on the letters he received on Hardin’s behalf, the cooperation Hardin had extended to the court and the decreased likelihood of Hardin committing a crime in the future.
"I believe that the variance to go below the sentencing guideline is appropriate," Moody said. "All indications are that the motivation for fraud was based on addiction he had and losses he suffered. His actions were inconsistent with his history. As soon as he recognized that he had committed fraud, he repaid the money and went into rehab for his addiction, which is an indication that he is not likely to re-offend."
Moody said that although he considered Hardin’s actions serious, his decision for parole was based on the above factors.
Moody’s sentence ensures that Hardin avoids any prison time, although the maximum penalties allowed are 10 years for money laundering and 20 years for wire fraud.
Among the conditions for Hardin’s sentence are that he be a member of Gamblers Anonymous, that he has no employment with any institution insured by the FDIC, disclose his financial records, have no new lines of credit without approval and have 200 hours of community service, with a recommendation that such service deal with gambling addiction.
Hardin’s attorney, Chuck Banks, said he was pleased and grateful for the sentence.
Hardin was asked to speak with a probation official to have arrangements set up for him to meet the terms of his parole in the district in which he lives before leaving the courtroom.
(Candie Beck is a staff writer and can be reached at 505-1238 or at firstname.lastname@example.org)