Arkansas Secretary of State, Arkansas State Police, Arkansas State Senate, campaign contributions, CCE reports, Col. William Bryant, David Resch, David Shepard, Democrat, FBI, federal charge, felony, guilty plea, Jack McQuary, Jonesboro AR, Judge Brian Miller, Little Rock AR, mail fraud, Patrick Harris, Paul Bookout, personal use, President Pro Tempore, reports, resignation, U.S. Attorney
The plea was announced this afternoon by Patrick C. Harris, Attorney for the United States, Acting Under Authority Conferred by 28 U.S.C. §515; Jack McQuary, Special Prosecutor for the State of Arkansas and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney; David T. Resch, Special Agent in Charge of the Little Rock Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Col. William J. Bryant, Director of the Arkansas State Police.
In 2006, Bookout, a Democrat, was elected to the Arkansas State Senate, representing Arkansas Senate District 14. In 2011 and 2012, Bookout served as President Pro Tempore of the Arkansas State Senate. He resigned in August 2013.
According to the Information filed today, Bookout deposited campaign contributions for his 2010 and 2012 elections into two bank accounts. Between May 2009 and December 2012, campaign donations totaling $126,500 were deposited into one of those accounts. Between March 2012 and July 2013, campaign donations totaling $62,750 were deposited into the second account. The Information alleges that between May 2009 and July 2013, Bookout unlawfully made payments totaling $150,048.12 from those accounts for personal items and expenses, including clothing for Bookout and family members, a sound system installed in Bookout’s home, golf clubs, country club pro shop expenses, sporting goods, liquor, household furnishing, tanning sessions, manicures, and travel expenses unrelated to his re-election campaigns.
During his 2010 and 2012 re-election campaigns, Bookout was required to file monthly Campaign Contribution and Expenditure Reports (“CCE reports”) with the Arkansas Secretary of State’s office in Little Rock to evidence compliance with campaign finance disclosure laws and provide a public record of all contributions and expenditures related to his campaigns. According to the Information, the monthly CCE reports prepared, signed, and filed by Bookout in 2010 and 2012 falsely claimed that the unlawful payments made from his campaign accounts were legitimate campaign related expenses.
Additionally, the Information alleges that in filing false CCE reports, Bookout represented to the Secretary of State’s Office, the public, and his contributors that all of the claimed expenditures were lawful and related to his campaigns, when in fact they were not. The mail fraud count charged relates to Bookout’s mailing of a fraudulent CCE report to the Secretary of State’s Office on about Dec. 28, 2012.
The statutory penalty for mail fraud is not more than 20 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000. A sentencing hearing is pending.
“In a betrayal of his oath of office and his duty to the citizens of Arkansas, Mr. Bookout violated the integrity of our government and disrespected those he served by selfishly and brazenly spending campaign funds for his personal use,” stated David Shepard, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Little Rock FBI, “The FBI will continue to work together with the United States Attorney’s Office and the Arkansas State Police to ensure that all those who participate in political corruption will be held accountable for their actions.”
“I appreciate the cooperation of the United States Attorney’s Office, the FBI, and the Arkansas State Police, who assisted in this case in order to effectively bring a resolution to both the State and Federal violations committed by Mr. Bookout,” stated Special Prosecutor Jack McQuary. “State prosecutors will continue to work with our federal counterparts to bring justice to the citizens of the State of Arkansas with regard to public corruption.”
Following the hearing, Bookout issued a statement:”I want to sincerely apologize to my family, my former constituents and the people of Arkansas,” Bookout stated. “I have cooperated with both State and Federal prosecutors throughout this process. My plea today reflects my acceptance of responsibility. I plan to work with all of my ability to make this right with my family, my former constituents and my community.”
Bill Stanley of Jonesboro, Bookout’s attorney, released the following statement: “Today, Paul Bookout appeared in Federal Court and entered a plea to one count of mail fraud,” the statement read. “Throughout this process, Mr. Bookout has been fully cooperative with the State and Federal officials. Now that the plea has been entered, the pre-sentencing process has begun. This process typically takes anywhere from 60 to 120 days, after which a sentencing hearing will be scheduled before the court. At this sentencing hearing, the defense will present evidence to the court on Mr. Bookout’s behalf with regard to the potential sentence. Mr. Bookout’s plea today reflects his acceptance of responsibility for his actions.”
The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Arkansas State Police. This case was prosecuted in the Eastern District of Arkansas by Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia S. Harris and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney and Special Prosecutor for the State of Arkansas Jack McQuary.