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story.lead_photo.caption Jon Woods (from left) Randell Shelton Jr. and Oren Paris

FAYETTEVILLE -- The judge in the corruption case involving former state Sen. Jon Woods on Friday set an April 9 trial date.

The trial is expected to last three weeks. A pretrial hearing is set for April 4. Hearings on motions are set for Jan. 10 and again on Jan. 25.

The hearing on Jan. 10 will deal with Wood's claim of attorney-client privilege "over certain documents and disclosures," according to U.S. District Judge Timothy Brooks' order. The order didn't give details, and the hearing itself will be in the judge's chambers with only attorneys for Woods and for the government present, the order states.

The Jan. 25 hearing is on Randell Shelton Jr.'s motion to dismiss charges against him.

Woods was indicted in connection with accepting kickbacks passed through Shelton from Ecclesia College in Springdale. Shelton's consulting contract was approved by Oren Paris III. Paris, who is also charged in the case, is president of Ecclesia. He is accused of paying kickbacks in return for state grants to the private Christian college.

Woods and Paris asked the court on Friday to join Shelton's motion to dismiss. Shelton's motion is sealed and not available to the public.

Former state Rep. Micah Neal of Springdale pleaded guilty Jan. 4 to accepting kickbacks in return for state grants and is expected to testify against Woods. Neal's plea agreement says Woods, Paris, Shelton and lobbyist Milton R. "Rusty" Cranford all participated in kickbacks in return for state grants. Cranford -- an executive in the now-defunct nonprofit corporation Alternative Opportunities and its offshoot, AmeriWorks -- hasn't been charged.

The kickbacks were in return for state General Improvement Fund grants to Ecclesia College and AmeriWorks, according to the indictment and plea agreement. Woods, Paris and Shelton have pleaded not guilty. Shelton passed the kickbacks for Ecclesia to the lawmakers through consulting fees paid by the college, according to the indictment.

Woods faces 15 counts of fraud, all relating to either wire or mail transfers of money. Paris and Shelton are named in 14 of the fraud charges. All three are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit fraud. Woods is also charged with one count of money laundering in connection with the purchase of a cashier's check.

NW News on 12/16/2017

Print Headline: Judge sets April date for corruption trial

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