Federal Judge Billy Roy Wilson
LET'S SEE THE BOSS: Ted Suhl, who operated the Lord's Ranch near Pocahontas and received millions in Medicaid money for sometimes controversial treatment of troubled youths, goes to trial next week for bribery. Will the feds let the public see the man who stands accused?
Friday removed the last obstacle to a trial of former government-financed mental health magnate Ted Suhl
on charges that he helped his business by bribing officials including former legislator and Human Services administrator Steven Jones.
Suhl's attorneys had tried to get the charges dismissed on the back of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that said mere receipt of money by a Virginia governor wasn't sufficient to sustain a bribery conviction — that official acts in return for monetary favors were required.
Judge Wilson didn't buy it. In a six-page order issued Friday afternoon, he said Suhl had been charged under a different bribery statute than the one used in the Virginia case and federal courts had repeatedly interpreted it in ways that the government hopes to prove in the Suhl case. An official act by a public official is not required to prove the charge, he wrote.
The Indictment includes allegations and all necessary elements sufficient to set out a charge for a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 666(a)(2). It alleges that Defendant “knowingly and corruptly” gave money (a/k/a bribed), through middlemen, to the deputy director of the ADHS to get the deputy director to take actions that would benefit Defendant and his companies.
Defendant asked an agent of the State to help him get placed on a review board, to support certain legislation, to open up a referral process, and to award no-bid contracts. Normally, this would not be a violation of the law. However, once Defendant allegedly paid thousands of dollars to influence or reward an agent of the State in connection with these business dealings between Defendant, his companies, and the State agent, the alleged actions fall under the statutes in the Indictment.
McDonnell [the Virginia decision] does not affect the Indictment in this case. The acts alleged in the Indictment go beyond merely arranging a meeting, organizing or inviting a guest to an event, or talking about an issue.
Suhl will protest that he had no intent to pay for official acts, but Wilson said this is a matter left to a "properly instructed jury."
Speaking of which:
Here's Suhl's proposals for jury instructions, written to emphasize defense points, such as the deals struck by cooperating witnesses now serving jail sentences.
Here's Wilson's order.
The trial begins Wednesday morning. To date, Suhl has entered the courthouse away from the prying eyes of photographers, who are not allowed inside the courthouse.
Suhl, though decades of spending heavily to influence political favors in Arkansas and many years of powerful positions in government, particularly thanks to Gov. Mike Huckabee
, has managed to avoid photographers. Typically, federal defendants don't avoid perp walks. Think former treasurer Martha Shoffner
, who had to endure a walk of shame to and from the courthouse for her appearances on bribery charges. Think Mike Maggio,
when he pleaded guilty to taking a bribe as judge.
Let the public see the man who reaped tens of millions for providing mental health services (abusive, according to past accounts in many cases), often under the name of Suhl's brand of religion. He's gotten away with most-favored-nation status for years.