FAYETTEVILLE -- Benjamin Burris, an orthodontist who operated clinics across Arkansas, pleaded guilty in federal court Monday morning to one count of bribing former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson to pass laws to benefit Burris' businesses.
Burris paid Hutchinson $157,500 between February 2014 and November 2016 with checks of $20,000, $5,000 and $2,500, according to a 20-page, 15 count federal indictment.
Hutchinson, then a practicing lawyer, was paid monthly retainers that nominally were for legal services. But he was also expected to introduce and lobby for laws or regulatory changes that Burris wanted, the indictment said.
Hutchinson pleaded guilty June 25, 2019, to one count of conspiring between 2014 and 2017 to commit federal program bribery in connection with Burris' orthodontist clinics.
Burris pleaded guilty to count one of the indictment, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud. Burris will be sentenced in about four months.
Burris entered into a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, which includes a speculative sentence of a year and a day in federal prison and a fine to be determined by U.S. District Judge Timothy L. Brooks. The proposed sentence is not binding on the court.
Burris faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000 on the conspiracy to defraud charge.
Formerly of Fayetteville and Fort Smith, Burris now resides in Windermere, Fla.