LITTLE ROCK — Attorneys for former Arkansas treasurer Martha Shoffner argued in a court filing Friday that she should be acquitted of extortion and bribery charges because the government failed to show that she committed federal crimes.
Shoffner was found guilty of six counts of extortion, one count of attempted extortion and seven counts of receipt of bribery at the conclusion of a five-day jury trial on March 11 in U.S. District Court in Little Rock. During the trial, however, the defense moved for acquittal and Judge Leon Holmes said he would not rule on the motion immediately but would allow both sides to file post-trial briefs on it.
Jurors heard testimony during the trial that broker Steele Stephens made seven cash payments of $6,000 each to Shoffner — the first six with his own money and the seventh with FBI money — and that Shoffner steered a larger share of the state’s investment business to Stephens than to any other broker. Jurors also viewed a hidden-camera video of Stephens making the seventh payment to Shoffner inside a box containing an apple pie that he delivered to her home in Newport.
In their brief Friday, Shoffner’s attorneys argued that the transactions between Shoffner and Stephens did not affect interstate commerce and did not involve any federal money, so she should not have been charged with federal crimes.
They also argued that the government had not shown that Shoffner agreed to provide anything to Stephens in return for the money she received.
"The law requires that the government present evidence from which a rational juror could conclude that there was a quid pro quo agreement by a public official to exchange an exercise of official acts for improper monetary payment. The government has failed to present this evidence," the defense attorneys argued in their brief.
Federal prosecutors had not filed their brief by Friday afternoon. During the trial, prosecutors argued that the money the treasurer’s office invests includes money from a mix of state and federal sources and that the bond trades Stephens conducted with the money did affect interstate commerce.
Prosecutors also argued during the trial that it was clear that Stephens gave the money to Shoffner with the understanding that he would receive preferential treatment in return, and that Shoffner complied.
The former Democratic treasurer resigned May 21, three days after her arrest by FBI agents immediately following the cash delivery that was recorded on video. She has been allowed to remain free pending a sentencing hearing.