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Judge rules 2003 guilty plea disqualifies former Eureka Springs mayor from running again

by Bill Bowden | October 19, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.
A roll of voting stickers is seen on Election Day, Tuesday, May 24, 2022, at the Elm Grove Community Center at Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Fort Smith. Voters in Sebastian County cast their ballots for several primary, county, city and school board races, as well as special tax elections. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Hank Layton)

EUREKA SPRINGS -- A candidate for mayor in this tourist town can't legally run for the office because he pled guilty to a felony in 2003, a judge ruled Tuesday in Carroll County Circuit Court.

It's too late to remove Beau Zar Satori's name from the Nov. 8 election ballot, but votes for him won't count, said Circuit Judge Scott Jackson.

Almost 20 years ago, Satori pled guilty to one count of failure to file a sales-tax form to the state. Satori said the case was sealed and to be expunged from his record after he completed probation.

But in 2019, the Arkansas Legislature changed the law, and expungement no longer allowed a person to run for elected office, said Jackson, citing Arkansas Code Annotated 21-8-305.

"Because of this 2003 court proceeding, Mr. Satori, you cannot run or hold the office of mayor of the city of Eureka Springs, according to that statute," the judge said.

"That's what the court's finding must be. Votes for Mr. Satori cannot be counted ..."

"Of course, I'm not happy with the ruling, and I think that I tested the law," Satori said after court.

"They can make up anything they want down there in Little Rock and put it out there until it gets tested. I'll be visiting with all my lawyers. We'll conference call on it and see what our options are, and we'll make a decision."

Satori said Curtis Hogue of Fayetteville is his attorney, but he was at the Grand Canyon on Tuesday so Satori was represented in court by Brian Hogue, Curtis' son.

Brian Hogue argued in court on Tuesday that Satori's plea didn't amount to a conviction under Arkansas Code Annotated 16-90-1404(2)(b)(vi).

That statute states that a conviction doesn't include "The entry of a plea of guilty or nolo contendere without the court's making a finding of guilt or entering a judgment of guilt with the consent of the defendant or the resultant dismissal and discharge of the defendant as prescribed by § 16-93-301 et seq."

"Judge, in this case, there has not been a conviction of my client," said Hogue.

He said that when Satori successfully completed his probation, the charge against him was dismissed.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Craig Parker said the title of Arkansas Code Annotated 21-8-305 is "Person convicted of public trust crime ineligible as candidate for office or to hold office," but that statute also includes people who plead guilty.

Section (a) reads: "If a person has pleaded guilty or nolo contendere to or has been found guilty of a public trust crime, he or she shall not" file, run as a candidate for or hold public office.

Craig Parker also cited 16-93-303(d), which reads: "After successful completion of probation placed on the defendant under this section, a defendant is considered as not having a felony conviction except for:

(1) A determination of habitual offender status;

(2) A determination of criminal history;

(3) A determination of criminal history scores;

(4) Sentencing; and

(5) A purpose of impeachment as a witness under Rule 609 of the Arkansas Rules of Evidence."

"In this case, all that is required to trigger 21-8-305 is that the defendant had pleaded guilty or nolo contendere, and I would contend that the state has proven that that has occurred," said Craig Parker.

The judge had initially set the court hearing for Oct. 11, but Satori appeared without an attorney that day, so after some discussion, the case was continued until Tuesday.

In court on Oct. 11, Satori said he decided to plead guilty in 2003 to one count in lieu of 86 more late payment charges being filed against him -- all for missing tax payment deadlines.

"I agreed to sign a plea agreement for one felony in the event that it would be expunged and cleared," Satori told Jackson in court on Oct. 11.

Satori -- an artist, gallery operator and former mayor -- didn't run for re-election in 2002 because of the charges pending against him, according to articles at the time in the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He served as mayor of Eureka Springs from 1999 to 2003.

Tim Parker, another attorney, filed a motion to intervene in the case on behalf of Benjamin Sharum, saying if Satori isn't allowed to run his name should be removed from the Nov. 8 election ballot.

"I have not been asked to rule on that," Judge Jackson said when Tim Parker asked about his motion. "That will be according to the rules of the Secretary of State."

Jackson advised Carroll County Clerk Connie Doss to contact the Secretary of State's office "to see what other remedial measures should be taken because the ballots have already been printed."

Other candidates for mayor include the incumbent, Robert "Butch" Berry, Brandon Cox and Tracy Johnson.

Print Headline: Judge: Satori can’t seek office


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