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September 18, 2018
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Former state representative Micah Neal (left) walks Thursday, September 13, 2018, with his wife Cindy to the John Paul Hammerschmidt Federal Building in Fayetteville. Neal was to be sentenced for conspiracy to commit fraud in kickback scheme involving state General Improvement Fund grants

Former state representative Micah Neal (left) walks Thursday, September 13, 2018, with his wife Cindy to the John Paul Hammerschmidt Federal Building in Fayetteville. Neal was to be sentenced for conspiracy to commit fraud in kickback scheme involving state General Improvement Fund grants

Ex-legislator who pleaded guilty to fraud won’t serve any prison time, judge rules

By Doug Thompson, Arkansas Online
This article was published September 14, 2018 at 10:20 a.m.

Former state Rep. Micah Neal has been sentenced to probation and house arrest after a judge agreed to a reduction in his maximum punishment based on his continuing cooperation with the government in its investigation of corruption in the state Legislature.

Neal was sentenced Thursday to three years of probation, including one year of house arrest, though he will be allowed to leave for work. He also must pay $200,000 in restitution.

The long-time Washington County Quorum Court member and heir to his family’s Neal’s Cafe pleaded guilty in January 2017 and agreed to testify against his co-conspirators. Sentencing was delayed as the cases of two of his accomplices went to a trial.

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EARLIER:

FAYETTEVILLE — Former state Rep. Micah Neal now faces a maximum prison sentence of three years, 10 months after a judge agreed Thursday morning to a reduction based on his continuing cooperation with the government in its investigation of corruption in the state Legislature.

U.S. District Judge Timothy L. Brooks had never granted such a large sentencing reduction as the government asked for in Neal’s case, the judge told U.S. Attorney Duane “Dak” Kees during Neal’s sentencing hearing. The decision stripped more than seven years off the maximum sentence Neal faces on his guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud.

“I wish I could go into detail, but we want to send a message to others that if you do like Mr. Neal, come forward immediately and truthfully do what the the government asks — even if it hurts you economically — you will be rewarded for it,” Kees told Brooks.

Brooks said Neal’s actions throughout the case were the best argument for the sentence reduction.

“Mr. Neal’s cooperation in this case is not solely responsible by any means but is very largely responsible for many indictments and guilty pleas, not just in his co-defendants but in other cases,” he said.

The long-time Washington County Quorum Court member and heir to his family’s Neal’s Cafe pleaded guilty in January 2017 and agreed to testify against his co-conspirators. Sentencing was delayed as the cases of two of his accomplices went to a trial.

The jury in U.S. District Court in Fayetteville found those co-defendants, including former state Sen. Jon Woods, guilty May 3. Woods last week received a sentence of 18 years, four months.

Neal received $38,000 in kickbacks in return for steering state General Improvement Fund grants to two entities, according to his guilty plea. He also testified he put in his personal account a $1,000 campaign donation for his 2012 state House race.

Five former state lawmakers have pleaded guilty to either misusing state grant funds, accepting bribes or both since Neal’s plea. Another was indicted for filing a false tax return and using campaign funds for personal use. Two lobbyists and three former executives of companies that received favorable state treatment in return for kickbacks, in addition to Neal’s co-defendants, have also entered guilty pleas.

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