Wilson sentenced to 70 months, $1.176 million restitution

Published Friday, June 02, 2000

LITTLE ROCK (AP) -- Former state Sen. Nick Wilson was sentenced Thursday to 70 months in prison and ordered to pay $1.176 million for his role as the kingpin of a statehouse racketeering scheme.

Wilson's sentence is to run concurrently with an 18-month sentence he received in February for a separate tax evasion and conspiracy conviction.

Wilson was to report to prison Monday, but U.S. District Judge George Howard Jr. delayed that one week to June 12 while lawyers hash out whether Wilson can pay restitution immediately, as prosecutors sought, without causing a hardship to his wife and 12-year-old son.

The former Democratic senator from Pocahontas -- a powerbroker during his 29-year career in the Legislature -- was identified as the leader of a public corruption scheme in a 133-count indictment handed up last year. He pleaded guilty to the racketeering charge, which encompassed all the other charges, shortly before he was to go to trial in March.

"I have apologized to my family for the injuries caused by my actions," Wilson told U.S. District Judge George Howard Jr. "I publicly apologize to the citizens of the state, to the court, and especially to my family for the injuries caused by my actions.

"I acknowledge those actions and I express remorse," Wilson said, standing with his lawyer, John Everett of Fayetteville.

U.S. Attorney Paula Casey said she was satisfied with the results of an investigation into corruption at the state Capitol.

"The fact is that he now stands convicted of every single thing he was alleged to have done," she said outside court. "That certainly demonstrates that the investigation was valid, something that should have been pursued."

Prosecutors had requested that he be made to pay the restitution immediately upon his sentencing Thursday. Instead, Howard gave Wilson 10 days to pay, allowing him time to present evidence that paying the fine quickly would be a hardship to this family.

First Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Johnson said Wilson's reported net worth had ballooned from $1.1 million to $1.8 million since his sentencing on the tax conviction in February.

Johnson noted Wilson's sale of a business called Medu-care, as well as stock transactions and the purchase a $480,000 house in Little Rock. The residence, in Wilson's wife Susan's name, has no mortgage. The Wilson's currently live in a $250,000 home in an upscale neighborhood.

The prosecutor said Susan Wilson also has more than $600,000 in stocks in her name.

Paying the restitution immediately, Johnson said, "may be a hardship on Mrs. Wilson as far as the level to which she has grown accustomed is no longer the same," Johnson said, "but that is hardly a hardship in terms of being unable to feed herself and clothe herself, care for her child and carry on a normal, in fact, economically healthy life."

"Let's keep in mind that this is more than $1 million of the money that Nick Wilson stole from the people of the state of Arkansas that she has had the benefit of living off of during the time that she's been married to him," he said.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Wilson could have received up to 87 months in prison. As it is, when he finishes his five-year-and-10-month sentence, he is to be under three years of supervised release.

Casey said her office would withhold any recommendation for leniency until after Wilson's assistance in the investigation is secured. He has agreed to testify, if necessary, against three co-defendants still facing trial.

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