by Max Brantley
STATEMENT OF PROSECUTING ATTORNEY SCOTT ELLINGTON
IN RE: ETHICS INVESTIGATION OF STATE SEN. PAUL BOOKOUT
“After spending much of the day in court and also reviewing this matter, I am requesting that Bob McMahan, the Arkansas Prosecutor Coordinator, nominate a special prosecutor to be appointed by the court to further review the Ethics Commission’s findings and determine whether a criminal investigation should be conducted. I suspect the special prosecutor will call for a state police investigation, but will leave that to his or her discretion.
“I specifically believe that it is appropriate for me to call for a special prosecutor to handle this matter because Sen. Bookout and his family attend my church. Further, three of my deputy prosecutors are members of the same law firm as one of Sen. Bookout’s attorneys. Therefore, I believe that my recusal and the subsequent appointment of a special prosecutor is appropriate because of the aforementioned personal and professional conflicts.”
Earlier today, Bookout got his official letter of reprimand from the Ethics Commission and also resigned his job at a Jonesboro hospital.
Tough call here on who should handle the case. This is one of those rare cases where a matter has at least some partisan coloration. Republicans want a big bloody scalp. I don't hear many Democrats defending Bookout, however. This is one where the facts do a lot of the talking. Some straight legal interpretation shouldn't be a partisan matter.
One of the problems in this investigation is jurisdiction. Was it Jonesboro, where Bookout spent much of his money (though not all)? Or was it Little Rock, where his reports were filed? I guess Ellington decided it fell to his office rather than Larry Jegley.
And before anyone jumps too hard on Ellington for partisanship, I just remembered that one of his deputy prosecutors, Thomas Fowler, is thought well enough by Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Darr that Darr appointed him to the state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission.
Bookout hasn't responded to my e-mail but he said in response to Arkansas News that he has nothing further to say at the moment about whether he'll continue in office. He'd earlier said he intended to serve out his term.