Ted Suhl makes appeal to 8th Circuit of bribery conviction | Arkansas Blog

Ted Suhl makes appeal to 8th Circuit of bribery conviction

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TED SUHL: At 2016 trial. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • TED SUHL: At 2016 trial.
Ted Suhl, the former head of a mental health services company in Arkansas, argued today to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that his bribery conviction should be overturned. The case was taken under advisement.

Suhl's attorney argued that the federal government hadn't proved a quid pro quo for official acts despite testimony about money Suhl channeled through an intermediary to a former Department of Human Services official and legislator, Stephen Jones, for information about state oversight of his business. The Suhl enterprise relied on millions in Medicaid money flowing through DHS.

The government didn't allege a quid pro quo against Suhl, but said his payments were meant to influence a public official. Much of the argument today covered related cases in other appellate courts, including a reversal of a case against a former Virginia governor, over the question of whether public acts were required to prove a charge and what constituted a public act. Several judges questioned Suhl's attorney, Kannon Shanmugam of Washington, closely on language in one Supreme Court decision that seemed to equate influencing a public servant with direct quid pro quo bribery.

Suhl was sentenced to seven years in prison last October. His attorneys argued that the money at issue was charitable donations to a church and Suhl  had no intention to guide money to Jones, who pleaded guilty in the case, but proved a poor government witness.

Suhl made millions and accrued significant political influence, as operator of the inpatient Lord's Ranch, later renamed Trinity Behavioral Services, and the outpatient Arkansas Counseling Services and Maxus. After the federal government's bribery investigation became known, the state ceased doing business with Suhl enterprises, putting them out of business.

Suhl, 52, is being held at a federal installation in Springfield, Mo.

Shanmugam argued that the jury hadn't been given proper instructions by federal Judge Billy Roy Wilson by his failure to include a quid-pro-quo requirement and a new trial was required. One judge asked whether words used by Wilson didn't amount to a definition of quid pro quo. He also challenged Suhl's inability to produce sufficient testimony about his record of charitable giving and to introduce fully evidence about unrelated criminal activity by a government witness in an election fraud case. and the magnitude of the benefit he received for cooperating. Judges' questions noted, however, that evidence was introduced about multiple charitable contributions and the witness' criminal activities, if not the specifics of the vote buying in which he engaged with offers of cheap vodka and chicken dinners.

John Keller, arguing for the government, said Suhl wasn't entitled to specific wording in the jury instructions. He said the concept of "corrupt intent" was adequately covered in the judge's instructions. He also said the defense could have asked more questions of Philip Carter, the cooperating witness, about his other criminal activities.

Correction: The name if Suhl's lawyer was misspelled originally.

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