by Max Brantley
Former North Little Rock Alderman Cary Gaines is expected to change his innocent plea at a hearing at 10 a.m. Monday in federal court. He has been charged with conspiring to direct city business to a reputedly mobbed up Cabot bookie to pay off gambling debts.
Timing is the key: If Gaines has struck a plea bargain, as is believed, he'll testify against Alderman Sam Baggett and the Cabot man, George Thompson. A trial of Thompson and Baggett is scheduled to begin Tuesday. A pre-trial hearing in the case is set at 9:30 a.m. Monday. There might be a need for a recess so lawyers in that case can move to another courtroom to hear what Gaines has to say.
Interest continues in whether Gaines, as a co-operating witness, might have relevant information about North Little Rock political matters not yet revealed.
Lawyers for other defendants will have plenty of material to work with when it comes time to cross-examine Gaines. His checkered career includes a financially questionable time as executive director of the Arkansas Sheriffs Association. It will be interesting to see if a plea agreement includes protection in other unrelated matters, a so-called "snitch clause."
Baggett has shown no willingness to co-operate with the feds, despite repeated entreaties. His indictment, which has left him unable to vote on some Council business, prompted The Times of North Little Rock to call editorially for his resignation from office. Baggett is accused of illegally selling guns to Thompson, who made campaign contributions to Baggett.