Former Faulkner County Circuit Court Judge Mike Maggio, who pleaded guilty last year to accepting a bribe, was sentenced Thursday to a maximum 10 years in federal prison.
U.S. District Court Judge Brian Miller handed down the sentence, which also includes two years of supervision upon release. Miller did not issue a fine.
“Mr. Maggio was crooked,” said Miller as he was delivering the sentence, noting also that he regularly sentences drug dealers to prison for up to 15 years “for standing on the street corner selling crack cocaine or being involved in a conspiracy...talking on the phone about crack.”
“What’s worse, a dope dealer standing on the street corner selling dope, or a dirty judge?” Miller said. “No question, in society, a dirty judge is by far more harmful to society than any dope dealer.”
While Miller noted that drug dealers can sometimes be violent and kill people, “a judge is the system.”
Maggio received 50,000 dollars in campaign contributions from the owner of a Greenbier nursing home, which a jury found in May 2013 to be negligent in the death of a patient, 76 year-old Martha Bull. By late June, Maggio announced his candidacy for a spot on the Arkansas Court of Appeals. The next month, Maggio reduced the jury award to the patient’s family from 5.2 million dollars to one million dollars.
Maggio’s attorney James Hensley, told reporters after the hearing that he disagreed with Miller’s characterization of Maggio as a “dirty judge” who was “crooked.”
“You know I can see why somebody would say that. He is the judge. I guess he could say what he needs to,” said Hensely. “I don’t feel that way about Mike. I think he’s a lot more than what happened here.”
Thomas Buchanan, the attorney for the family of Martha Bull, told reporters the characterization was fair.
“The judge made it very clear that what he was doing was eroding the very foundation that our system of justice was built on and he’s going to have 10 years to think about it,” he said
In statements before the sentence was handed down, Hensley asked the judge for leniency.
“I think he’s taken responsibility as much as he can for the action,” Hensley said during the hearing. “Mike’s a good husband....He’s a good daddy,” he said, noting that Maggio’s family members were present. Hensley also noted several letters submitted by legal professionals in support of Maggio. “He has a stellar career, a stellar history, stellar reputation.”
Maggio himself declined to comment during the hearing or when questioned by reporters afterward.
While asking for a harsher punishment before the sentence, Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Peters struck a tone similar to Miller’s.
“We look to the courts to resolve our disputes, civil or criminal. And if the average person comes in thinking their not going to get a fair shake because the judge is going to accept a bribe, the entire system is in jeopardy,” said Peters, who said in such an instance, the electoral system was also in jeopardy, because Maggio was elected to his position.
Maggio has 14 days to file an appeal. Hensley said they would likely go forward with one.