Feds: Excuse for computer wipe in kickback case not credible
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — The government’s own attorneys don’t believe the reason given by their chief investigator for why he wiped the memory of a laptop used to gather evidence in the corruption case against a former Arkansas lawmaker.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Brooks will issue an order later on whether to dismiss the kickback case against former state Sen. Jon Woods over the destroyed evidence, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported .
Brooks asked government attorneys on Thursday if they found it credible that FBI special agent Robert Cessario wiped the computer because he had also used it to download personal medical records he wanted to keep private. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron Jennen said he doesn’t believe that explanation.
“No, your honor,” Jennen said. “That reason sounds like burning down a house because you don’t like the drapes.”
But Jennen said that just because he doesn’t believe Cessario’s explanation, Brooks shouldn’t assume that Cessario was trying to conceal evidence in the case.
Woods is accused in a federal indictment of participating in a kickback scheme involving state grants. He faces 15 counts of fraud, all relating to either wire or mail transfers of money.
The Justice Department alleged that Ecclesia College President Oren Paris III paid Woods and then-state Rep. Micah Neal kickbacks in return for $550,000 in state grants to the college between 2013 and 2014.
Neal pleaded guilty last year to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud, admitting that he took two kickbacks totaling $38,000. He hasn’t been sentenced.
Woods has pleaded not guilty. The indictment doesn’t provide the total figure of what Woods is accused of receiving in kickbacks because some of it was reportedly paid in cash.
Information from: Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.nwaonline.com