According to the Arkansas Times, state Rep. Michah Neal has pled guilty to charges of bribery.
The scandal involved a $500,000 grant given to Ecclesia College along with a smaller grant given to another nonprofit. According to court records, Neal helped secure $600,000 worth of grants to these two non-profits in exchange for receiving a $38,000 kickback.
The Justice Department released a press statement clarifying Neal’s actions.
‘As part of his guilty plea, Neal admitted that, between January 2013 and January 2015, while serving in the Arkansas House of Representatives, he conspired with an Arkansas state senator to use their official positions to appropriate government money known as General Improvement Funds (GIF) to a pair of non-profit entities in exchange for bribes.
…Of the $600,000, Neal personally authorized and directed a total of $175,000 to the entities. In return for his official actions, Neal received approximately $38,000 in bribes from officials at those non-profit entities’
Neal has yet to be sentenced, but he could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. That being said, this is his first offense so it’s unlikely that he’ll receive the maximum sentence.
For their part, Ecclesia denies any wrongdoing. The school’s Dr. Oren Paris III published a letter on Facebook where he denied any wrongdoing in the Neal case.
‘After reading the statements contained in Mr. Neal’s plea agreement, I can unequivocally state that neither I nor Ecclesia College have been party to illegal activity. We have never been a party to any agreements to funnel money to any state legislator.’
Neal is not the only elected official who is being investigated in conjunction with this case. The plea agreement says that the other official is a state senator who has been in office since 2013. It also provides some more details as to where the money went as well as some information on the second non-profit.
‘Senator A has served as a Senator in the Arkansas Senate from 2013 to the present. Prior to his service in the Arkansas Senate, Senator A served as a Representative in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 2007 until 2012.
Entity A was a non-profit corporation, with an address in the Western District of Arkansas, Fayetteville Division, that purportedly sought to create manufacturing jobs in northwest Arkansas, specifically for a specialized workforce including disabled veterans, disadvantaged youth, and individuals recovering from substance abuse.
Entity B was a non-profit corporation operating a college located in Springdale, Arkansas, in the Western District of Arkansas.’
As stated above, Neal has yet to be sentenced, so we do not know what kind of punishment he will face for this scandal.
Featured image via Youtube