Former Arkansas Treasurer Martha Shoffner pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal charges accusing her of taking cash payments to steer state investments to a bond broker.
It was a brief hearing, with U.S. Magistrate Joe Volpe reading the 14 charges of extortion and bribery.
Her attorney Chuck Banks entered a plea of not guilty and requested a trial by jury.
Asked by the judge if that was her plea, Shoffner said “Yes, not guilty.”
On May 31, she attempted to enter a guilty plea and told a judge she had taken payments from a bond broker, but because she said “it was offered. I didn’t demand it,” which conflicted with what prosecutors said, Judge Leon Holmes rejected the plea.
Shoffner was indicted by a federal grand jury on June 5 and Thursday’s hearing was her initial appearance on those charges. She had asked that she be allowed to not be present for the hearing, but that request was denied by Judge Volpe.
As she left the courthouse, Shoffner told reporters she was looking forward to the case being heard by a jury, saying “I think that’s where you get the truth.”
Asked why she was pleading not guilty after previously attempting to plead guilty, Shoffner said “There’s just certain issues that were brought up that I couldn’t plead to on the first hearing.”
Her trial is scheduled to begin July 29, and the judge estimated it would last four days.
If convicted of the 14 federal counts, she could face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. If her guilty plea had been accepted in May, she would have faced a maximum of 10 years in prison.
The FBI says it caught Shoffner on tape accepting the final payment of $6,000, delivered by the bond broker to her home in Newport in a pie box.
She resigned a few days after her arrest amid pressure from Gov. Mike Beebe and state lawmakers.