LITTLE ROCK — Former Arkansas treasurer Martha Shoffner, whose trial on federal extortion and bribery charges begins next week, entered a plea of not guilty to 10 counts of mail fraud during a hearing in federal court Thursday.
U.S. Magistrate Beth Deere set a March 31 trial date on those charges.
A federal grand jury indicted Shoffner earlier this month on the mail fraud counts for allegedly using $9,800 from her re-election campaign for state treasurer for personal use. Shoffner allegedly mailed campaign checks as payments on a personal Wells Fargo credit card from Nov. 5, 2010, through Oct. 9, 2011.
The new counts of mail fraud against the former state treasurer are in addition to six counts of extortion, one count of attempted extortion and seven counts of receipt of bribery that were filed against her in June.
After a brief hearing Thursday morning on the latest charges, Shoffner declined comment outside the federal courthouse in downtown Little Rock. Her attorney, Chuck Banks, said their entire focus now is on the extortion and bribery trial that begins Monday.
“Obviously, anytime you go into a trial to defend somebody in federal court you’re focused, but this is an important case,” Banks told reporters. “It’s a case not only about her innocence or guilt, it’s about the United States Constitution, and what better court can you be in than this court right here … the highest trial court of the national government.”
Shoffner resigned May 21. She had been under investigation for more than a year because of suspected improper bond transactions in her office when federal authorities took her into custody at her Newport home May 18 after an informant delivered a $6,000 cash payment in a pie box.
The trial on those charges is to start Monday in U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes’ court.