Ex-Arkansas judge who discussed Theron case pleads guilty
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The former Arkansas judge accused of revealing details about actress Charlize Theron adopting her son pleaded guilty to bribery in a separate case Friday, admitting that he accepted a campaign donation in exchange for reducing a jury verdict against a Conway company.
Prosecutors said Michael Maggio, a former Faulkner County Circuit Court judge and a one-time candidate for the Arkansas Court of Appeals, accepted a plea deal that calls for a sentence of up to three years in prison. A sentencing date has not been set.
Maggio’s attorney did not return a phone call seeking comment Friday from The Associated Press. Maggio was removed from office in 2014 after being accused of various instances of misconduct, including revealing alleged details of confidential hearings about Theron’s adoption proceedings.
Maggio was accused of accepting a $50,000 donation from an unnamed business two days before reducing a jury’s $5.2 million award in a negligence lawsuit against the company to just $1 million. Prosecutors said the donation, which included $24,000 from the company’s owner, was made in July 2013.
Prosecutors said a lobbyist and political fundraiser, identified as Individual B in court documents, helped arrange the donation in exchange for the favorable verdict.
Prosecutors wouldn’t identify the company or individuals by name, but the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported last year that Maggio had reduced a $5.2 million jury’s judgment against Greenbrier Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in the death of a resident to $1 million. The center was owned by Fort Smith nursing home operator Michael Morton, who has denied any wrongdoing.
U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Cherith Beck declined to confirm the names of the company and individuals cited in Maggio’s case, saying: “This is an ongoing investigation.”
A spokeswoman for the FBI, which had investigated the campaign donations, did not immediately return a phone call for comment.
Maggio dropped out of the appeals court race in March 2014. He was removed from the bench by the Arkansas Supreme Court in September 2014, after admitting to posting comments about Theron’s adoption case on a Louisiana State University fan message board under the pseudonym “geauxjudge” and making off-color remarks in an online forum.
The comments also included a posting suggesting that women who seek divorces after their husbands cheat may be better off financially by staying married.