Feds: Judge Admitted Taking Bribes From Indicted Lobbyist

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — An Arkansas judge admitted last month to accepting $100,000 in bribes from an indicted lobbyist while the judge was a state lawmaker, federal prosecutors said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Mohlhenrich on Friday (Mar. 16) said Jefferson County Judge Henry “Hank” Wilkins IV admitted to the FBI in February that he took the money from lobbyist Milton Russell Cranford.

Mohlhenrich discussed Wilkins’ involvement during Cranford’s arraignment on corruption charges in Missouri. Wilkins has not been charged with any crime.

Cranford, an executive for the nonprofit Preferred Family Healthcare in Springfield, Missouri, was arrested this week and pleaded not guilty Friday to charges of conspiracy and accepting bribes. Prosecutors say the nonprofit paid bribes through Cranford’s lobbying firms to win state grants and taxpayer money, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported .

Mohlhenrich described the influence Cranford had on Wilkins during Friday’s hearing. He told U.S. Magistrate Judge David Rush that Wilkins received the money in the form of donations to a Pine Bluff church where he serves as pastor.

In exchange for the contributions, authorities say, Cranford counted on Wilkins’ support while he served in the state Legislature from 2011 to 2015.

Wilkins didn’t immediately return an e-mail seeking comment Saturday (Mar. 17). His cellphone couldn’t accept voicemail.

A federal grand jury indicted Cranford on Feb. 20 on one count of conspiracy and eight counts of taking bribes.