Dentist pleads guilty to bribing Arkansas state senator

A dentist pleaded guilty Sept. 13 to one count of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud in a bribery scheme involving former Arkansas state senator Jeremy Hutchinson between 2014 and 2016.

Benjamin Burris, DDS, who now lives in Florida, owned several orthodontic clinics and practiced as an orthodontist in Arkansas, according to the U.S. Justice Department. In 2014, Dr. Burris allegedly met with former Sen. Hutchinson, who was then also a practicing lawyer, to discuss his legal objectives. Dr. Burris hired Mr. Hutchinson as his corporate legal counsel, but admitted that his intent in hiring Mr. Hutchinson was to influence and request actions from Mr. Hutchinson on legislative issues. Dr. Burris paid Mr. Hutchinson about $157,500 for his legal work, according to a Sept. 13 news release from the U.S. State's Attorney's Office for the Western District of Arkansas.

Mr. Hutchinson allegedly filed several legislative proposals to remove restrictions for orthodontists, one of which was signed into law in March 2017.

Dr. Burris faces up to 20 years in prison. He also was charged with additional counts of honest services wire fraud, but those charges will be dismissed at sentencing, which is expected to take place in about four months. He may withdraw from the plea agreement if a federal judge wishes to sentence Burris to a sentence that is not a year and a day in federal prison, according to the news release.

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