, the northeast Arkansas businessman who ran two companies providing Medicaid-funded mental health services to youth, was arraigned today in federal court on six charges related to bribes he allegedly directed to an official at the state Department of Human Services
in exchange for favors.
Max reported earlier this month on the details of the Dec. 2 indictment
, which outlines an alleged conspiracy between Suhl, former DHS deputy director Steven Jones
, West Memphis city councilman Phillip Carter
and an unnamed pastor of a church in West Memphis (identified only as "Person A" in the documents). Long before a grand jury returned the indictment against Suhl, his two companies were cut off from public money after Jones pleaded guilty in late 2014 to conspiracy and bribery charges.
This morning, Suhl pleaded not guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joe J. Volpe and requested a jury trial. The trial is set for Jan 19, with U.S. District Judge J. Leon Holmes to preside.
Volpe notified Suhl this morning of the maximum prison sentences the six charges carry: One count of conspiracy (to commit bribery and honest services fraud), at up to five years in prison and
a maximum fine of $250,000; three counts of honest services fraud, at up to 20 years and a maximum fine of $250,000; one count of federal funds bribery, at up to 10 years and a maximum fine of $250,000; and, one count of interstate travel in aid of bribery, at up to five years and a maximum fine of $250,000. That's a combined maximum sentence of forty years, and a combined $1 million in fines, not counting potential supervised release time.
Worth noting: Suhl's counsel consists of local defense attorney Chuck Banks
(who recently defended former state treasurer Martha Shoffner on federal bribery charges
), but also Washington D.C. attorney Robert Cary
, partner at Williams & Connolly LLP. Cary is known for
his representation of former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens
(R-Alaska) against allegations of corruption. In 2008, Stevens was indicted on ethics charges only a few months before standing for reelection; the Alaska senator was eventually exonerated when his defense team uncovered prosecutor misconduct in the case.
It's not the first time Suhl has hired a top-dollar D.C. lawyer to defend against allegations of wrongdoing. Back in 2008, when reporter Mary Jacoby wrote an in-depth story
for the Arkansas Times
on alleged physical abuse at the Lord's Ranch
, Suhl's erstwhile treatment center in Randolph County, he retained elite Washington attorney Bob Bennett
to defend his name.