Former Arkansas senator Gilbert Baker indicted on conspiracy, fraud counts

Former state senator Gilbert Baker after being arrested on a charge of driving while intoxicated (Photo: Faulkner County sheriff's office)

Former Arkansas senator Gilbert Baker has been indicted on counts of conspiracy, bribery and wire fraud.

The indictment unsealed Friday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas connects Baker, 62, to a scheme involving former Faulkner County Circuit Judge Mike Maggio.

Maggio was convicted of bribery and sentenced to 10 years in federal prison in 2016. He admitted to lowering the amount of damages awarded in a civil suit in exchange for indirect contributions to his campaign for an Arkansas Court of Appeals seat. The indictment says Baker solicited campaign contributions for Maggio and was involved in the scheme.

Baker, a Republican from Conway, worked as a lobbyist and political consultant after leaving office in 2013. He pleaded guilty to a charge of driving while intoxicated in 2016.

Baker's attorneys, Richard Watts and Bud Cummins, released the following statement to KATV on behalf of Gilbert Baker:

Mr. Baker has consistently maintained, including several times under sown oath that at no time did he ask Judge Mike Maggio or Mr. Michael Morton or anybody else to do anything improper or illegal. He has also consistently maintained that at no time did anyone ask him to do anything improper or illegal. All campaign contributions in 2013 were handled lawfully and were transparently reported in public records. After over five years of investigation M. Baker is confident that the truth will finally be made know.

The indictment also references unnamed individuals, including Individual A - who is listed as "a stockholder in numerous nursing homes located in Arkansas. Individual A owned Company A, a nursing home and rehabilitation center located in Faulkner County."

According to the indictment, Maggio presided over a civil lawsuit where the estate of a decedent filed a complaint against Company A, Individual A and other who "neglected and mistreated the decedent" while she was in the company's care. In May 2013, the jury returned a verdict that Company A would pay $5.2 million in damages. In June 2013, attorneys for Company A filed a motion for a new trial or remittitur, seeking a reduction in the amount of damages paid. In July, Maggio signed an order granting the company's motion, reducing the payment from $5.2 million to $1 million.

Nursing home owner, Michael Morton, is working under the assumption that he is "Individual A." A spokesperson for Morton, Matt DeCample, released a statement saying he never asked for anything in return from any candidate.

Mr. Morton maintains that while he made campaign contributions to numerous candidates for the 2014 election, he never asked for anything in return from any candidate. He never discussed reducing a jury verdict in any case with anybody. Morton discussed this at length with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2014 and it remains the truth today.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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