Former University of Central Arkansas president Lu Hardin is scheduled to be sentenced in federal court on Sept. 26 after pleading guilty to wire fraud and money laundering in March. The charges stem from a scheme to accelerate payment of a $300,000 bonus voted to him by the UCA Board of Trustees that he worked out in part to cover gambling debts he amassed while playing high-dollar slot machines.
On Sept. 16, Hardin's attorney Chuck Banks filed a pleading asking for leniency in sentencing. Below are the main arguments.
Despite his lengthy resume, his recent bio was limited to "a mere three paragraphs indicating a great deal of humility."
He's done with gambling.
He's in Gamblers Anonymous and "is ready to move forward with his life never entering a casino again."
He's otherwise clean living.
"He has been in an unquestioned faithful marriage for more than thirty years and he does not drink, smoke, or curse."
He's more valuable on the outside.
"Hardin has many educational talents and skills that could be put to use as a community service component of punishment for this offense. ... It is difficult to imagine that at a cost of $28,284.16 per year, the imprisonment of Lu Hardin would better satisfy the need for justice than requiring community service and allowing Hardin to continue being a tax paying citizen."
He otherwise did a lot for UCA.
Under his leadership, "enrollment grew from 8,500 students to 13,000 students, average student ACT scores increased" and he helped secure funding to build a new College of Business.
He graduated third in his class at Searcy High School and magna cum laude from Arkansas Tech, earned a law degree from University of Arkansas-Fayetteville and taught legal studies at Arkansas Tech for 12 years.
He's a good athlete.
He played left field on a 1969 American Legion state championship baseball team and was a three-year all-conference member of the golf team at Arkansas Tech University. From a testimonial from son Scott Hardin: "He has always been quick to call penalties on himself on the golf course, teaching me it is the only way to play the game."
He's otherwise honest.
"Uncle Lu has always been the most honest man that I know," according to niece Angela Johnson, who recalls when Hardin spent all night answering phone calls from constituents. "This particular summer evening, after taking several calls in a row, the phone rang yet again. On my way to answer I said, 'Uncle Lu, if it's for you I can just tell them that you are not home.' He looked at me, almost confused that I would suggest such, and said, 'you can't do that...it wouldn't be true.' To Uncle Lu, even a 'little white lie' was not acceptable."
He's lived a life of service.
He was state senator for 14 years and head of state Higher Ed for six years. He's advised students, helped people get jobs and taught Sunday school. While "dressed in a suit and serving as director of the Department of Higher Education," he helped someone out of a ditch during an ice storm.
He's already suffered.
He's lost two jobs, voluntarily surrendered his law license and endured "severe public criticism through newspaper, radio and television coverage," which has had a "devastating" effect on him and his family.
His wife Mary writes, "He's living with cancer, will never again be able to work in Arkansas, and has turned his life around."
He barely gambled.
"He has never participated in any illegal gambling and in fact did not participate in any other form of legal gambling such as wagering on cards, dice, horses, or sporting events. His sole endeavor was slot machines which are known to be one of the most addictive forms of gambling."
He's made restitution.
As soon as "newspapers began questioning the bonus," he immediately paid it back.