Monday, August 22, 2016

Federal judge denies motion for new trial in Ted Suhl bribery case

Posted By on Mon, Aug 22, 2016 at 3:09 PM

click to enlarge SUHL: Denied a new trial, he'll now appeal to the 8th Circuit. - NELSON CHENAULT
  • NELSON CHENAULT
  • SUHL: Denied a new trial, he'll now appeal to the 8th Circuit.

U.S. District Judge Billy Roy Wilson
today denied a motion for a new trial for Ted Suhl, the Arkansas businessman convicted of multiple counts of federal bribery in a jury trial last month.

Chuck Banks, an attorney for Suhl, said his client will appeal to the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. (Along with Banks, Suhl is represented by a defense team from Williams & Connolly, an elite D.C. firm.)

The defense's motion came in the form of a 50-page brief and over 100 pages of exhibits filed earlier today. But in his succinct order delivered the same afternoon, the judge said the defense raised no new points:
I have carefully reviewed the points raised in Defendant’s Motion for a New Trial (Doc. No. 132), each point having been raised at least once before the trial or during the trial (puts one in mind of the title of one of Hawthorne’s works, Twice-Told Tales).

Believing my previous rulings were correct and believing myself to be fully advised in the premises, I am of the opinion that the motion (Doc. No. 132) should be, and hereby is, DENIED.
Suhl's businesses provided mental and behavioral health services to thousands of children and teenagers over the decades, both at an inpatient facility in Northeast Arkansas formerly known as the Lord's Ranch (now renamed Trinity Behavioral Health) and through an outpatient provider, Arkansas Counseling Associates. The U.S. Department of Justice said Suhl funneled thousands of dollars to Steven Jones, a top official at the Arkansas Department of Human Services, in return for inside information and preferential treatment for his companies. From 2007 to 2011, Suhl regularly wrote checks to the 15th Street Church of God in Christ in West Memphis, where a local middleman named Phillip Carter was a deacon. Carter would then deliver cash payments to Jones, keeping a cut for himself. Suhl insists that the checks to the church were simply charitable donations.

After a six day trial in July, a jury convicted Suhl on one count of federal funds bribery, one count of interstate travel in aid of bribery and two counts of honest services fraud. He was acquitted on a third count of honest services fraud and a conspiracy count.

In its motion for a new trial, the defense criticized a number of things about how the proceedings unfolded in July:
Suhl was not permitted to fully cross examine the government’s key witness, [Phillip Carter.] Nor was he permitted to offer critical evidence supporting his defense that these donations were in fact charitable. The government constructively amended the Indictment on multiple occasions, ignoring the alleged agreement between Jones and Suhl, claiming that Suhl’s alleged payments were somehow now related to his entire business, and changing by a period of years the timeframe of an alleged official act. Finally, the Court gave jury instructions that permitted the jury to convict on bribery counts without actually finding a quid pro quo. Each error individually is fatal to the case. The cumulative effect is overwhelming and requires a new trial.
Extensive coverage of the trial can be found here: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, and Day 6.

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