A former Democratic state politician and donor to Sen. Mark Pryor (D., Ark.) pleaded guilty to bribery, the Department of Justice announced on Thursday:
Steven B. Jones, 49, of Marion, Arkansas, pleaded guilty to a two-count information charging him with conspiracy and bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 2, 2015, before U.S. District Judge Billy Roy Wilson of the Eastern District of Arkansas.
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According to his plea agreement, Jones served as deputy director of ADHS from approximately April 2007 until July 2013. While serving in that capacity, Jones solicited and accepted multiple cash payments and other things of value from the owner of two businesses that provided inpatient and outpatient mental health services to juveniles. This individual provided the cash payments and other things of value to Jones through the use of two intermediaries, a local pastor and a former county probation officer and city councilman.
Jones, a former state legislator who served as a deputy director for the Arkansas Department of Human Services until last July, contributed $500 to Sen. Mark Pryor’s campaign in June, and an additional $250 to the campaign in February. The chairman of the Republican Party of Arkansas called on Pryor to return the donations on Friday.
In the plea agreement, Jones said he received cash from a mental health company owner in exchange for official favors he performed as deputy director of the Arkansas DHS. The exchanges allegedly were carried out by two intermediaries, a church pastor and a city councilman.
"I got that little package I owe you from our last meeting," the city councilman reportedly told Jones on a recorded phone call in November 2011, according to a copy of the plea agreement obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
"You’re the man," Jones replied. "Yeah, you kinda like the Lord, he may not come when you want him, but you right on time."
Several days later, Jones reportedly accepted $1,000 from the city councilman at a restaurant in West Memphis. Jones believed the money was in exchange for him providing internal DHS information to the mental health company owner, federal authorities say.