Trading Felonies for Campaign Cash: A Look at Dan Kemp’s Ethics

Based on the mailer that arrived at Blue Hog Report’s international headquarters yesterday (2/20/16), the primary selling point for the dark money supporting Judge Dan Kemp in the Chief Justice race is that Judge Kemp cannot be bought and is above reproach ethically. To wit:

kemp front

kemp back

Of note in that mailer–aside from the fact that, yet again, it has come from a faceless dark-money outfit that is targeting Justice Goodson by painting her as a liberal friend of [insert scary music] trial lawyers [/scary music]–is a single sentence:

And there’s been nary a rumor about any ethics problems in his tenure.

Which brings me to this.

On October 28, 2014, Lea Ann Finn was arrested in Stone County on charges of Possession of Drug Paraphernalia (Meth/Cocaine), which is a D felony; Furnishing Prohibited Articles, which is a B felony, Possession of less than 4 ounces of Marijuana, which is an A misdemeanor; and DWI-Drugs (1st Offense), which is an unclassified misdemeanor. At the time of her arrest, Ms. Finn was looking at a minimum of five years in prison (for the B felony) and up to 26 years in prison (if the B and D felonies ran consecutive). Ms. Finn’s case was assigned to Division 1, which is Judge Dan Kemp’s court.

On November 6, 2015, Judge Dan Kemp announced his candidacy for the position of Chief Justice of the Arkansas Supreme Court.

On November 12, 2015–less than a week after announcing his candidacy–Judge Kemp signed off on a plea agreement whereby Ms. Finn would plead guilty to the unclassified misdemeanor and the A misdemeanor and B and D felonies would be dismissed by the prosecutor.

“Wait,” you might be saying, “what about speedy trial? That was more than one year from arrest to plea agreement, and the docket does not say anything about a continuance that was chargeable to the defense pursuant to Ark. R. Crim. P. 28.2.” To which I would say, good eye, hypothetical narrative device. Assuming CourtConnect is correct in the entries it shows, Ms. Finn’s case would have been subject to dismissal with prejudice as of October 28, 2015.

Even if there was a continuance that was chargeable to Ms. Finn, however, a bigger issue arises when we look at the big picture.

As noted, Judge Kemp announced on November 6, 2015. On November 12, 2015, Judge Kemp signed off on a plea agreement that did away with two felonies–one of which carried a mandatory minimum of five years.

Oh…did I mention that Ms. Finn is the daughter of Kay and James Hinkle of Mountain View? Because she is.

Why does that matter? Because Stone County is not exactly large in terms of population. So, for the uninitiated, Kay Hinkle is a UCA Board Member. James Hinkle is part of the family that owned the independent Bank of Mountain View and the independent telephone company, the Mountain View Telephone Co.

Anyway, sixteen days after Judge Kemp signed off on Lea Ann Finn’s plea of guilty to an unclassified misdemeanor, Ms. Finn’s parents each donated $2,500.00 to Judge Kemp’s campaign:

Screenshot 2016-02-21 21.07.08

Her sister also donated $500 on that same date:

Screenshot 2016-02-21 21.21.46

A couple weeks later, Ms. Finn’s dad sent out this email:

Screenshot 2016-02-21 21.25.52

And therein lies the rub–and the reason for this post: In the absolute bestcase scenario, you still have a judge agreeing to a plea bargain where felony drug charges are dropped and a near-meaningless DWI-Drugs (1st offense) is the only charge to get a guilty plea. Even in that super happy version, the judge allows the state to turn a blind eye to offenses that would normally warrant a minimum five years in prison.

In the worst case scenario, however, that plea was in exchange for $5,500.00 in contributions less than a month after a candidacy was announced, and it got Judge Kemp an email endorsement/request for donations from a person in Stone County who carried more clout than 99% of the population up there.

In either event, and to borrow a theme from Judge Kemp’s earlier advertising, let’s go ahead and hold off on pretending like Judge Kemp is so without sin that he should be throwing a first stone at anyone. And, if he can’t throw that stone, no dark-money proxy should be chucking rocks on Kemp’s behalf unless and until Judge Kemp explains why agreeing to a dismissal of felony charges warrants thousands in campaign donations.

 

44 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t agree. Goodson may be political on some decisions, but–more often than not–she’s sided with Arkansans instead of insurance companies, corporations, or other private interests. That’s why the dark money is coming after her; they know she’s an impediment to tort reform.

  2. Vote for goodson…most of what you have heard about her is tinged with sexism…she is certainly better than kemp

  3. Sorry, you’d have to have a more compelling argument than that to get me to vote for Goodson. How does this ruling compare to his other rulings on drug cases. Isn’t this a more fair ruling for a non-violent drug offender than locking them up for 30 years? At least now she has a chance at rehabilitation. And there’s no proof he gave that ruling in exchange for donations. Perhaps they gave those donations for feeling thankful for a fair ruling. If that’s all you can come up with, then I’m not swayed.

  4. Blue Hog I appreciate the job you do. However this seems like a stretch to me. Did you talk to prosecutor?

  5. Generally the prosecutor works out the plea agreements, then the judge decides whether to accept or deny the terms. The agreement includes which charges will be dropped. Was this a plea to the court? Even if it were, the judge doesn’t decide which charges to sentence on, the prosecutor does. Also, it’s the attorneys’ responsibility to raise speedy trial issues. I’ve never heard a judge do so sua sponte.

  6. He stated that scalia will be missed…wow not by me…I am amazed that liberals would vote an avowed conservative just cause she got a divorce and married a rich man….hum seems like plenty of male judges have done that and everyone was not in a uproar…scalia might have been “honest and fair” but I still thought he was the devil….

  7. Dan kemp stated the scalia would be missed…not by me…scalia was the devil ….another reason not not to vote for him

  8. While I agree that the current judicial election system is a breeding ground for corruption (or at least the appearance thereof), and this situation may have that same taint, be a little more realistic in your assessment of the typical punishment in this case. Assuming no priors, there is no way a first time offense “would normally warrant a minimum 5 years in prison”, and you know that. Was the deal better than most? Maybe, but a probation sentence is by far the most likely outcome. 5 years prison is extremely unlikely.

  9. From the beginning I have been undecided about this race. After reading this I cannot support either of these candidates. I was suspicious from the beginning after looking at the webpage of the Judicial Crisis Network. This group is spending a lot of money on TV adds attacking Goodson. The first thing you see when you go to their page is a statement saying Obama should not be allowed to nominate a Supreme Court Justice. I guess the Constitution does not matter when a Democratic President, who happens to be Black is the person nominating. If he was a white republican they would be falling over themselves to confirm the nomination. Apparently Mr. Kemp is no more ethical than Ms. Goodson. Neither of them belong on the Supreme Court and certainly don’t deserve to be Chief Justice.

  10. Goodson has to recuse from too many conflicts (Tyson, U of A cases) for me. Among many other issues I have with her. Already proudly voted for Kemp!

  11. “…she’s sided with Arkansans instead of insurance companies, corporations, or other private interests” and “they know she’s an impediment to tort reform…” Having successfully mounted courtroom challeges & spear-heading one wave of challenges seeking to restore joint and several liability, I have a very difficult time reconciling these two statements. The corporate interests want tort reform to protect insurance and businesses from the damages that the companies’ negligent acts cause. You cannot possibly be pro-corporation and anti-tort reform in the way it’s structured now.
    I gather that the dark money this time around is not the same dark money against Tim Cullen. The former dark money was very much against individual protections.

  12. Dude, way too far with way too little. Your “absolute best-case scenario” is the kind of hysteria about plea deals that leads to mandatory minimums for drug offenses.

  13. let me say a word on Dan Kemp…..Maggio….so that is what you people are really getting….hum….but, there is enough to start wondering what the hell is going on in Stone/Baxter/Faulkner County that involves the Hinkle/Kemp/Maggio/Baker connection….but, by all means just stick your heads in the sand while Blue Hog is sounding the alarm…

  14. Coming from someone that should (because of your experience at the court) have at least have a basic understanding of criminal law, this is an extremely disingenuous post. Do you have some proof that Kemp forced the prosecutor to charge this defendant this way, offer the plea deal, or agree what the defense proffered? Otherwise, his role as judge in the matter would normally be quite minimal, yet you frame it in a way for non-lawyers to misinterpret it as monumental.
    And I truly don’t understand the point about speedy trial. If that was a viable option, and Kemp was working in collusion with the defendant, surely the defense would have made a ST motion that he would have rubber stamped. A dismissal is loads better than a plea, no matter how favorable.

  15. Matt, where’s the evidence that the prosecutor was in on this? You know, money in exchange for the nol prossing of the felony counts?

  16. Jo Ann, if you think it is just because she divorced and married a rich man, then you are sadly mistaken. How about the fact that the rich man she married has bought and paid fro many of the supreme court judges. And now, finally, he is being investigated his unethical law practices regarding class actions. How about the fact that Goodman was VERY misleading when she ran for Supreme court judge. She ran on the basis as being a person for family values and children, while at the same time, we now know, she was cheating on her husband. She also intentionally misled people to believe she served several years a a lawyer, when she was simply a clerk. She had showed over and over again that she doesn’t have any integrity. And, I could go on.  No, Jo Ann, divorcing her husband and marrying a rich man is far from the only reason we would not vote for her. For starters, her opponent is a proven person of integrity.

  17. It is no doubt a stretch. In these cases, the prosecutor gives a proposal. Notice, blue hog didn’t even mention the prosecutor, which leads me to only assume he never did talk with the prosecutor. In addition, blue hog is way off. If the defendant had no prior at all, then it would actually be VERY surprising for the prosecution to recommend a 5 year mandatory sentence. He made conclusions based on lots of assumptions.

  18. Ruairri, he also left out the fact that it is the prosecutor who makes the recommendation in these cases. If he knew what the prosecutor recommended, and it was more than Kemp agreed to, he most definitely would have added that. That leads me to assume blue hog never talked to the prosecutor in this case. How is that not necessary information to know if you are going to attempt to accuse Judge Kemp of something. I would bet that Judge Kemp accepted the recommendation given to him. If this woman had no priors, then this would not be an unusual recommendation for a  first time offense

  19. Sexism, lol. So, we know for a FACT that she accepted over $100,000 in gifts. Is that sexism? We know for a FACT that her husband lawyer paid off campaign debts of several of her co-judges. (No conflict of interest there, right?). Is that sexism? She ran a campaign based on family values, while at the same time she was cheating on her husband. is that sexism. Please, your accusation is just like those who ridiculously play the race card. What we have heard about Goodson is actual facts, not assumptions. And, it has nothing to do with her gender.

  20. I’ve known him for 20 years, and work under him as a minister where he serves as an elder. One word that comes to mind when I think of Jon Dan Kemp is integrity

  21. I guess my thought was the case should have been dismissed, not allowed to go to Plea Bargain.  I think the implication is that an honest judge should have dismissed the case with prejudice…to never be brought up again.  However, instead of doing that, Judge Kemp accepted a plea deal that wasn’t necessary, but gave her grateful parents a chance to make a nice contribution to Kemp’s campaign, as well as write a letter asking their friends to contribute as well.  If the case had been properly dismissed, the parents probably wouldn’t have been so happy with the dismissal of what appeared to them to be their daughter spending 5 years in prison.  In other words, the handling of the case allegedly benefited Judge Kemp’s political campaign and thus justice wasn’t blind.

  22. I’m curious, if you are going to go after Kemp and attempt to paint him as someone who lacks integrity, the why didn’t you at least investigate all the facts? For example, do you even know what the prosecutor recommended in this case? That is a HUGE piece of information that you left out. Second, was this a first offense? Did the defendant have a clean record? If you truly have some knowledge in this area, then you know that it would be HIGHLY unlikely for the prosecutor to recommend the 5 year mandatory minimum sentence, that the prosecutor would more than likely accept a plea deal if her record was previously clean. I have to assume it was clean, otherwise you certainly would have added that this woman had a previous record. Either that, or again, you are writing this article while doing a poor job of getting much of the facts in the case. I have to assume, if you had all these facts, you would have presented it in yuor article. The fact that you didn’t state the prosecutors recommendation shows that you wrote this article with bias. Try stating ALL of the important facts in the case, and let us decide.  Because as it is, you did one of two things. You either left out important facts because they would go against your case, or you didn’t bother to research important facts in this case. Either way, it completely takes away any credibility in the assumptions of this article.

  23. AS someone who has worked under Judge Kemp for 10 years, I can assure you, he is far from evil. He is a man of integrity.

  24. He is far better than his opponent. He is try a man of integrity,. This article intentionally left out MANY facts. For example, what did the prosecutor recommend for a sentence? Why did he leave that out? Did Judge Kemp simply accept what the prosecutor and DA agreed to? Is he really suggesting that it is unusual for a person with a first time offense to be given probation for a plea deal, rather than 5 years! Actually, a 5 year mandatory sentence would be highly unusual for a prosecutor to recommend for someone with a clean record. I’ll assume she had a clean record, given blue hog would have added she had a previous record, if she did.

  25. Blue Hog, 
    I’m curious, if you are going to go after Kemp and attempt to paint him
    as someone who lacks integrity, the why didn’t you at least investigate
    all the facts? For example, do you even know what the prosecutor
    recommended in this case? That is a HUGE piece of information that you
    left out. Second, was this a first offense? Did the defendant have a
    clean record? 
    If you truly have some knowledge in this area, then you
    know that it would be HIGHLY unlikely for the prosecutor to recommend
    the 5 year mandatory minimum sentence, that the prosecutor would more
    than likely accept a plea deal if her record was previously clean. I
    have to assume it was clean, otherwise you certainly would have added
    that this woman had a previous record. Either that, or again, you are
    writing this article while doing a poor job of getting much of the facts
    in the case.
    I have to assume, if you had all these facts, you would
    have presented it in your article. The fact that you didn’t state the
    prosecutors recommendation shows that you wrote this article with bias.
    Try stating ALL of the important facts in the case, and let us decide. 
    Because as it is, you did one of two things. You either left out
    important facts because they would go against your case, or you didn’t
    bother to research important facts in this case. Either way, it
    completely takes away any credibility in the assumptions of this
    article.

  26. Plea agreements involve prosecution and defense. Of course a court can always refuse to accept it, but to imply that a court somehow engineered it? Ludicrous unless you have far more than you have revealed here.
    As for the B/F furnishing, do you have a police report or know the basis of that charge? A lot of times that is charged because of something found during book in, which really doesn’t fit into the statute very well. D/F paraphernalia, are we talking about a smoking device? I do not see a felony controlled substance involved, which means that this plea bargain doesn’t sound all that different from plea bargains going on all around the state.
    I don’t personally know the man, but I’ve spent a lot of time around criminal courts and I do know how that generally goes. This is weak and speculative (at best) and that’s not what I’ve come to expect from Blue Hog.

  27. JimDavis5 Sorry, but too much of that doesn’t make sense. First of all, as someone who lives in Mountain View and knows the town, the Hinkles would have donated to Judge Kemp’s campaign, and pushed for him either way. Second, how come Blue Hog never mentioned what the prosecutor recommended? I can think of only 2 reasons. One he didn’t bother do research this important fact.
    Or two, he knew the prosecutor recommended the stated plea and Judge Kemp simply agreed – which would have hurt Blue Hogs case in attempting to hurt Judge Kemp’s integrity.

    One more point. I also have to assume this woman did not have a prior record, because I am sure Blue Hog would have added that as well as he made his case for this woman getting away with too little of a sentence. If she had no prior record, it is not unusual at all that the prosecution would agree to a plea deal rather than push for a mandatory minimum of 5 years, something blue hog also failed to mention. In fact,it would have BEEN unusual for a prosecutor to push for a 5 year minimum for a first time offender

  28. exactly, and how many prosecutors push hard for a 5 year minimum sentence for first time offenders. it would not be unusual at all for the prosecutor to recommend this of plea to the judge if the defendant was generally known as a good citizen and this was a first time offense.

  29. You are completely wrong. Judge Kemp has had no idea who JCN even was, and has called for them to disclose who there contributors are, but they will not. He has also recently stated his displeasure in their recent tactics in their ads and has distanced himself from them. This particular article was very misleading. 
    First of all, anyone who lives in Mountain View knows that the Hinkles have always been supportive of it’s locals and would no doubt have supported Judge Kemp regardless what happened in the court case. 
    Second, have you asked the question Blue Hog left so much important information out. Are you aware that the prosecutor is the one who makes the recommendation and first agrees to a plea? This means that Judge Kemp would have simply accepted the plea agreed upon by the prosecutor and the DA. Third, it is not unusual at all for a first time offense with a clean record to be offered a plea.  In fact, it would have been highly unusual for a prosecutor to recommend a 5 year mandatory sentence for a person with a clean slate, rather than work with the DA. 
     And know this, if the woman did not have a clean record, Blue Had would have definitely pointed it out, because it would have aided his case

  30. How about, what was the prosecutors recommendation?  if the prosecutor and DA agreed to this recommendation, is would not be unusual at all for the Judge to agree to it. Especially if she had a clean slate. And I assume she had a clean record, otherwise Blue Hog would have added that to aid his case against Judge Kemp.

  31. Repeating what’s said in the comments on the article, it’s the prosecutor, NOT the judge that sets up plea bargains.
    If you’re going to make an argument, it needs to be true in its premise.

  32. Tonia, I do know Jon Dan Kemp, as I work under him as a minster for 10 years where he is an elder. Another thing this man left out is that Jon Dan Kemp is is the one who started and implemented the drug probation and rehabilitation program (drug court) in Arkansas. it has been very successful and was designed to help deal with the issue of over crowded jails. Instead throwing first time offenders straight in jail, this program gives first time offenders an opportunity to receive probation and go through the drug program.. They have to finish the program and test clean each time they are tested, or they are sent to jail instead. Not only is this plea that was accepted by Judge Kemp not unusual, it was the norm. It would have been highly unusual for prosecutor to push for mandatory jail time for a person with no record. And, id the lady had a previous record, you can be sure that Blue Hog would have added that, as it would have given him further ammo in his claim that she was purposely let off easy. But, the reality is, this is what happens with the majority of first time offenders. They are given the opportunity for this drug probation program. Notice that Blue Hog said nothing about Judge Kemp as as one who instituted this program in Arkansas, and is a key reason this lady wound up in his court.

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