Mike Maggio, the former circuit judge from Conway, turned himself in to U.S. marshals today to begin serving a 10-year sentence for bribery.
He turned himself in shortly before the 2 p.m. deadline. He was to be transferred to a contract holding facility in Mason, Tenn., awaiting a final designation from the Bureau of Prisons on where he'll serve his time.
The Bureau of Prisons talks little about assignments but eventually will list his place of incarceration on its website.
UPDATE: KARK/Fox 16's Chanley Painter landed a remarkable interview with Maggio shortly before he entered the federal building. There's a preview above, but I highly recommend hitting the link for the full 13 minutes. He's not ready to take responsibility for his actions, noting that he still plans appeals. Looking back at events on anything he'd change, he said: "I would not plead."
This is a tough, tough day for me. For my family, my friends, my supporters. I would like to think I am much much more than this. The portrayal of me has not been kind the last almost four years. But anybody who knows me — anybody who knows me — knows that I'm not that I'm not what's been reported.
He spoke emotionally of support from his wife and his faith. He said he'd given confession today. "I have a future to work toward rebuilding," he said. "All I would ask is for people to give me a second chance."
He complained a media frenzy and the court of opinion "rushed to convict me" without due process, beginning with a judicial discipline case episode about his "jokes." He said, "I never had my day in court."
Maggio thanked Painter for treating him like a person. "I've been treated as a pariah, I"ve not been allowed to be treated like a human." He said the media had a one-track narrative. "The public gets tired of that."
Maggio's incarceration is a major milestone in events dating back four years, though it is not necessarily the end of the story.
The Arkansas Times was first to report in July 2013 basic details of the case that would eventually send Maggio to prison. That was his decision to reduce a $5.2 million jury award in a nursing home negligence case to $1 million, to the benefit of Greenbrier nursing home owner Michael Morton. That article presciently noted that Morton was a major contributor to candidates for judicial office and Maggio was planning a race for state Court of Appeals seat.
The heat turned up for Maggio with the unearthing by Matt Campbell's Blue Hog Report of Maggio's postings under a pseudonym on an LSU fan website. Maggio was derogatory about just about every type of person you could imagine. That set off a Judicial Discipline investigation that would eventually remove him from office. But by then, the heat had really ratcheted up.
It turned out that Morton gave Maggio a LOT of money in the form of political contributions. Morton contributed huge amounts to many judicial candidates, however, from Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Wood, particularly, and colleagues on down to the circuit court level. But dogged sleuthing by Matt Campbell focused the spotlight on Maggio and multiple contributions to him arranged by former Republican Sen. Gilbert Baker of Conway. The money was directed to cookie cutter PACs created to get around contribution limits and the money for Maggio arrived around the time of the verdict reduction.
Maggio was removed from the bench over his Internet commentary. Federal prosecutors were already working then and, eventually, Maggio pleaded guilty to bribery — reducing the verdict in return for the contributions. No one else has been charged and Morton and Baker assert their innocence. Maggio, however, not only failed to cooperate, he didn't deal honestly with prosecutors. His deal for a lighter sentence was withdrawn and he got 10 years. He'd waived an appeal in his initial plea and the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals wouldn't let him take it back. He plans further appeals.
Many believe threads uncovered in the feds' Maggio investigation led to an unrelated public corruption investigation that has produced one guilty plea by a legislator and a pending felony case against another over kickbacks from state surplus money doled out to favorites of former Rep. Micah Neal, who's pleaded guilty, and former Sen. Jon Woods, who's awaiting trial. The fact of some unindicted participants in those cases has led to speculation that cooperation could be afoot that might produce still more public corruption charges.
The completion of Maggio's case — and his potential for rethinking his willingness to cooperate in hopes of a sentence reduction— fuel speculation that there's still more to come. Baker was tightly connected as legislator and lobbyist with others who've found ways to make money related to public service. What is the distinction between a legal business relationship with a public servant and a quid pro quo? The 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals answered decisively insofar as Mike Maggio is concerned. So he's off to prison, where a 10-year federal sentence (which means tiny reductions for good behavior) might loosen his tongue.
Asked by Chanley Painter about future cooperation, he said that was a question his lawyer should answer.