Jon Woods kickback trial delayed | Arkansas Blog

Friday, December 1, 2017

Jon Woods kickback trial delayed

Posted By on Fri, Dec 1, 2017 at 1:10 PM

click to enlarge TIMOTHY BROOKS : Judge delays kickback trial.
  • TIMOTHY BROOKS : Judge delays kickback trial.
Federal Judge Timothy Brooks today canceled the trial scheduled to begin Monday in the case alleging former Sen. Jon Woods took kickbacks from state money he guided to Ecclesia College and a mental health agency. It was delayed for a hearing on new evidence.

Also on trial are Oren Paris III, president of the college, and Randell Shelton Jr., a friend of Woods and Paris who allegedly participated in the scheme.

Brooks had  refused Woods' motion yesterday for a delay so his attorney could have more time to study materials he received from the government. But he decided on a delay today because of the recent discovery by defense of the existence of 79 recordings, covering 52 hours of conversation, that were surreptitiously made by former Rep. Micah Neal. He's pleaded guilty to being part of the scheme and set to be a witness for the government.

Attorneys learned inadvertently about phone conversations, which are in addition to several the government had already referenced in pre-trial discovery. The government wasn't intending to introduce the other recordings. The government had already said the recordings would be made available to defense attorneys by Neal's attorney.

Shelton is trying to have the charge against him dismissed. He argues the additional conversations might have exculpatory evidence. All agree an evidentiary hearing would be proper on anything found there. The judge agreed today that there wasn't time to review the material and have such a hearing before the trial begins Monday.

As a result, the judge said, all parties said they didn't object to a "brief continuance" of the trial, "for no longer than is necessary to prepare for and conduct an evidentiary hearing on Mr. Shelton's motion to dismiss." The delay will be excluded from time counting toward meeting the speedy trial rule.

The judge's order.

His order makes clear that he was not reconsidering Woods' request for more time to prepare.

Shelton's motion to dismiss was built on this finding related to the recordings:

On November 15, 2017, at 7:23 p.m., defense counsel received an email from the Office of the United States Attorney with an attached letter, advising them that the government learned earlier that evening that there are 79 “covert recordings” made by Micah Neal which the government said they had never obtained. The letter further stated that the government did not possess them or have any intent to obtain them absent defense counsel seeking them out.

Subsequent communication with the Office of the United States Attorney confirmed that the use of the word “government” was not limited to that office alone.

After the government advised that it did not intend to obtain these recordings and provide them to defense counsel (clearly establishing that the government had no intention of reviewing them for exculpatory material), defense counsel conducted due diligence regarding the recordings and determined that approximately 52 hours of recordings had not been disclosed.

 Further investigation by counsel has now revealed that FBI Agent Robert Cessario has had access to these 79 recordings since November 2, 1016, as they are electronically stored in the same shared location as other previously disclosed audio recordings.

The government’s representation that it “never obtained” these audio recordings is simply not true. Further, the government’s refusal to obtain or produce those recordings after advising defense counsel of their existence is improper, and adds to the cumulative effect of the misconduct that has occurred in this matter, as addressed in Mr. Shelton’s pending Motion to Dismiss.

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