A grand jury has indicted a former Arkansas public defender for conspiracy to commit rape.
Daniel Arthur Stewart was charged Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, according to a one-paragraph court filing.
In 2016, Stewart used "facilities and means of interstate commerce" to "attempt to persuade, induce, entice and coerce" someone younger than 18 to engage in sexual activity, according to the indictment. The charge is a violation of Arkansas Code Annotated 5-14-103.
Stewart was originally charged in Faulkner County Circuit Court. His trial was scheduled for next week.
On Friday, the Faulkner County case against Stewart was dropped because of the federal charge, according to an order of nolle prosequi.
Stewart, 49, is a former chief public defender for Sebastian County. Public defenders represent indigent criminal defendants in Arkansas.
Dana Cargile, personnel manager at the Arkansas Public Defender Commission, said Stewart hasn't been employed by the agency since 2016.
Stewart was arrested in Fort Smith. He was accused of going to a hotel with the intent to have sex with a man and his 13-year-old son. The man turned out to be a Faulkner County Sheriff's Office deputy in the Internet crimes unit.
The investigation of Stewart began after an undercover officer in the unit saw an online ad in which a person was looking to make contact with a "young guy" or "son," according to the 2016 criminal charge.
"During the chat, the suspect expressed a sexual interest in having sexual contact with both my adult undercover profile and the undercover profile's 13-year-old son," according to the Faulkner County affidavit from 2016.
"The communications initially occurred via email but later moved to the Kik messaging cell phone application," according to the affidavit.
The officer and Stewart discussed arrangements for him to travel to Conway to meet at a hotel for sexual contact with the fictitious man and boy, according to the affidavit.
Stewart said he had been ill and wasn't able to make the two-hour drive from Fort Smith to Conway but suggested they meet him in Fort Smith. The undercover officer accepted the invitation.
When Stewart walked into the lobby of the hotel, he was met by the Faulkner County sheriff's detectives and FBI agents, according to the affidavit.
During questioning at Fort Smith's Police Department, Stewart denied having any intention of having "inappropriate or illegal contact with an underage child," according to the affidavit.
The affidavit said Stewart admitted placing the Internet ad, receiving email from the undercover officer, chatting with him through the Kik app and arriving at the Fort Smith hotel because of the arrangements made in the chat conversation.
He refused to provide his iPhone pass code, according to the affidavit.
On March 31, 2017, Michael Kiel Kaiser, who was Stewart's attorney at the time, filed a motion to dismiss the case because it was filed in Faulkner County.
"All of these alleged overt acts occurred in Fort Smith, Arkansas, which is located in Sebastian County and part of the Twelfth Judicial District," he wrote. "None of the alleged overt acts occurred within the geographical area of Faulkner County or the Twentieth Judicial District. This Court lacks jurisdiction to hear the above-captioned case, and is an improper venue for this prosecution. Accordingly, the case must be dismissed."
A week later, Cody Hiland, who was then prosecutor for Arkansas' 20th Judicial Circuit, filed an amended charging document adding Stewart "committed the overt act of communicating an invitation for a sexual encounter on March 19, 2016, to a person he believed to be in Faulkner County, Arkansas, and communicated the location of the hotel reservation, along with specific directions to his location for the sexual encounter to the undercover profile located in Faulkner County, Arkansas, in furtherance of the conspiracy."
Stewart is to be arraigned Tuesday in federal court in Little Rock before Magistrate Judge Patricia S. Harris.
Hiland is now the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas.
NW News on 01/12/2019
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