DALLAS — Former Arkansas Treasurer Martha Shoffner, convicted in March on extortion charges, will face a trial on mail fraud charges in December after a plea deal fell apart during a court appearance on Nov. 10.
U.S. District Judge J. Leon Holmes ordered Shoffner, already convicted on extortion charges on March 11, to stand trial Dec. 1 on mail fraud charges after she declined to say whether she had solicited campaign contributions for her personal use.
Under the plea deal, Shoffner would have pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud in exchange for nine other counts being dismissed.
On March 11, a federal court jury convicted Shoffner on charges of taking bribes in exchange for $2.5 million of commissions for an Arkansas bond dealer named Steele Stephens.
According to testimony in March, Shoffner used the dealer for sales of bonds from the state's investment portfolio. The transactions caught the attention of the Arkansas Legislature, which referred the case to the U.S. Attorney in Little Rock.
Stephens garnered more business than any other broker over the course of four years, according to prosecutors. Stephens testified under an immunity agreement that he'd paid $6,000 to Shoffner on six occasions, the last while wired by the FBI. Shoffner was arrested moments after the final exchange.
Shoffner offered no defense witnesses in the March trial, and her attorneys maintained that Shoffner had not taken bribes but, at the most, broken state ethics laws by taking illegal cash gifts and campaign contributions.
At the Nov. 10 hearing, Shoffner and her attorney took a long break to discuss the question posed to her by Holmes about whether she had solicited the campaign contributions for personal use.
When Shoffner and her attorney returned to court, she answered that she had "never raised the money to use personally."
The Dec. 1 court date could change, as Shoffner's attorney sought a continuance.
Shoffner was arrested in May 2013 after the Federal Bureau of Investigation taped an exchange of cash.
In the earlier trial, prosecutors presented a video secretly recorded by broker Stephens, in which he delivered an apple pie with $6,000 in cash inside the box. Stephens is unconnected to Arkansas' Stephens Inc. investment firm.