Former Arkansas circuit judge Michael Maggio has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for taking a bribe to reduce the verdict in a nursing home negligence case.
Maggio had no comment for reporters after the so-called “dirty judge” received the maximum penalty allowed by law. The federal judge who sentenced him had tough words for Maggio, saying his actions were “far more harmful” than those of a dope dealer.
U.S. District Judge Brian Miller said the 54-year-old ex-judge’s actions were “crooked” — the Miami Herald reported. Maggio’s lawyers argued that probation would have been sufficient punishment, as the judge had suffered enough “personal, professional and political destruction” over the course of the last two years.
Maggio pleaded guilty last year to accepting a $50,000 campaign donation just days before reducing a jury’s $5.2 million award to $1 million in the negligence case.
“He was eroding the very foundation that our system of justice is built on,” said attorney Tom Buchanan – who is representing the nursing home victim in a civil suit.
The donations Maggio received reportedly included $24,000 from the nursing home company’s owner. They were made in July 2013. In 2015, Maggio admitted that he had accepted the campaign donations from the nursing home owner and a lobbyist who brokered the deal — in exchange for reducing the jury award.
A number of family members of the victim in the nursing home negligence case were also in the gallery, when Thursday’s ruling came down.
The Arkansas Blog first reported the unusual verdict reduction by Maggio for the family of Martha Bull, a woman who died after a nursing home “failed to follow a doctor’s instruction to hospitalize her.”
In his original plea, Maggio admitted reducing the $5.2 million jury verdict against the Greenbrier nursing home after a former Republican senator had arranged “multiple contributions” from the nursing home owner to PACs that were to funnel the money to Maggio. That money was to be used for Maggio’s planned race for state Court of Appeals.
Prosecutors said Maggio lied to investigators at the Arkansas Ethics Commission looking into the donations. The Herald reported that Maggio failed a lie detector test asking for more details of the interactions between himself, the nursing home owner and a lobbyist who brokered the exchange.
Maggio’s attorneys say they are likely to file an appeal.
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