Sunday, January 29, 2023

Evil Uncles & Illegal Money: The Jana Bradford Chronicles, Part 1

[Content warning: The following contains references and some descriptions of sexual assault against children. –ed.]

The newly elected prosecutor for the 9th Judicial District West, Jana Bradford, took office earlier this month after defeating her challenger, Mickey Buchanan, in May. Bradford won the election in large part by touting her “over 24 years prosecuting criminals in Southwest Arkansas” as a deputy prosecutor in 9W and, well, painting her opponent (a public defender) as soft on crime–more specifically, by implying that he was soft on sex offenders, drug dealers, and murderers.

This tone in a prosecutor’s race is hardly new. It is basically how every mailer for this kind of race looks, especially where one of the people running has been a deputy prosecutor for a while and the other has not. Standard stuff.

What makes this different–and makes Bradford’s repeated references to how each of them interacts with sex offenders so unsettling–is that Bradford is the niece of convicted child rapist Barry Walker. More to the point, Bradford has previously acted in the capacity of Walker’s attorney following Walker’s 1999 conviction for molesting an 8-year-old girl. It was in this professional capacity that Bradford tried to obtain a pardon for Walker from then-Gov. Mike Huckabee and tried to have Walker removed from the sex-offender registry.

To be clear, none of what I wrote in the previous paragraph is unknown or breaking news; Debra Hale-Shelton specifically reported on this aspect for the Arkansas Times as part of her coverage of Barry Walker’s case:

In 2004, Bradford, then representing her uncle, filed an application asking then-Gov. Mike Huckabee to pardon Walker. In that petition, Walker said through Bradford, “I touched an 8-year-old child’s vaginal area with my hand then pulled her shorts down and pulled her back against my lap with my jeans unzipped.

“I would like a second chance to be a fully productive citizen of this state and practice medicine again in rural Arkansas,” Walker added.

In 2018, Bradford filed another petition, this time asking that Walker be removed from the sex offender registry. But that effort was delayed due to a needed reassessment, and before it was pursued further, Bradford quit representing Walker in 2020.

But here’s the thing: Hale-Shelton’s piece was written in October, just over a month before the general election, while Bradford’s election was part of the nonpartisan elections back in May. Meaning that, by the time Walker’s convictions and backstory were coming to light, Bradford was already months past her election and was just waiting to take office in January. I suspect it was this fact that made digging much further into Bradford in October seem kind of pointless.

That’s a shame, too. Because, hoooooo boy, is the devil in the details of this whole story. So let’s begin at the beginning.

***

Barry Walker was originally charged Sexual Abuse–1st Degree in Sebastian County in 1999. According to the affidavit of probable cause in that case:

On February 24, 1999, the undersigned was contacted by [NAME REDACTED] of Fort Smith, regarding the conduct of Dr. Barry A. Walker, age 35. Mrs. H—- informed the undersigned that her eight (8) year old daughter had told her that Dr. Walker had touched her in ways which made her uncomfortable.

Based on the investigation in this matter, on February 23, 1999, Dr. Walker and his wife came over to the residence of Mr. and Mrs. H—- in Fort Smith for dinner. At one point in the evening, Dr. Walker went into the library to work on the H—-‘s computer. The eight year old came into the library to play a computer game. Dr. Walker was sitting in a chair behind her while she was playing the computer game. Dr. Walker unzipped her shorts and pulled shorts and underwear down. He unzipped his pants and pulled her against him. The eight year old stated she could feel his penis against her back and bottom. Furthermore, the eight year old stated that Dr. Walker had rubbed her privates on two previous occasions.

In February 2000, Walker filed a motion for mental evaluation to see if he was competent to stand trial. An initial evaluation by a third-party psychiatrist found that Walker lacked the ability to assist his attorney with his defense, so the circuit court signed a commitment order, sending Walker to the Arkansas State Hospital until such time that they determined that he was competent. A few weeks after arriving at the state hospital, Walker was found competent following evaluation by ASH doctors.

On March 29, 2000, Walker entered a no-contest plea to the felony charge. He was sentenced to five years in prison, plus another five years suspended.1 Due to overcrowding in both the ADC and Sebastian County jail, Walker was ordered to report to the ADC to begin serving his five-year sentence on April 29, 2000, though he ultimately did not begin serving any prison time until June 2000 according to Arkansas Department of Correction records.

Walker was paroled on March 19, 2001, after serving approximately nine months of his five-year sentence. That parole date is also the date that Walker’s five-year suspended sentence began running concurrently with the remainder of his five-year prison sentence, so that Walker’s prison sentence would end on March 8, 2005,2 and his suspended five-year sentence would end on March 19, 2006.

On August 20, 2004, in her capacity as licensed attorney in the State of Arkansas, Jana Bradford completed and submitted on Barry Walker’s behalf a petition for executive clemency, asking Gov. Mike Huckabee for a pardon.

***

Based on Jana Bradford’s bar number, 93045, she had been practicing law in some form or another for over a decade when she filed Walker’s petition for clemency. More to the point, perhaps, she had been a deputy prosecuting attorney in the State of Arkansas for roughly seven years as of the date she submitted that petition.

Now, it is important to note that a clemency application allows the person seeking a pardon to have the packet completed by a lawyer, but it does not require that a lawyer be involved. Walker is highly educated, receiving a bachelor’s of science in aviation3 from Henderson State University in 1987 and his medical degree, with board certification in family practice,4 in 1996. Even the full forensic report from the Arkansas State Hospital noted, “His intellectual functioning was estimated to be in the superior range[.]” He almost certainly could have completed the clemency application himself.

Instead, Walker chose to ask his niece, Jana Bradford, who apparently agreed. That would be fine–if unfortunate in retrospect–if Bradford had not been a deputy prosecutor at the time. After all, there is nothing wrong with exercising a right to counsel, no matter what TV dramas might tell you. But, Bradford was a deputy prosecutor when she was completing the application for Walker, and that fact makes some of what was (and was not) said in the application quite a bit more interesting.

For instance, the application instructs the person seeking the pardon to list the crime, county, and sentence that they are seeking clemency for, and it specifies that “sentence” includes both time in the ADC and suspended sentences. The correct answer for Walker, therefore, would have been “60 months’ ADC, 60 months’ SIS.”5

But, whatever. That’s just a clerical error (sort of). That’s not necessarily something that should have given a deputy prosecutor pause when filling out the packet, right?

Well how about this? Remember the description above in the criminal information about what Walker did to get this charge? All that stuff about her feeling his penis on her back and butt and him pulling down both her and his pants and underwear? Well, here’s how Bradford’s application for Walker described what happened:

As a lawyer and deputy prosecutor, Bradford would have had access to the criminal information about this case. She would have had access to the prosecutor’s statement in the file, which reads:

[Walker], who is a doctor and a family friend sexually abuse[d] an 8 yr. old little girl in her own home while he was over visiting the family. He rubbed her penis on her bottom.

While that statement also falls short of truly describing what happened, it’s noticeably closer than what is in the clemency packet. Prosecutors routinely push for more stringent sentences for convicted defendants who refuse to admit culpability or show remorse. That Bradford, a deputy prosecutor, would sign off on a clemency packet that didn’t come near describing the gravity of what happened is pretty shocking. That she would seemingly put her prosecutorial role aside completely in order to do this for a relative is noticeably worse.

And then there’s this:

That’s a lie. We know it’s a lie because the file for the very case in which Walker was seeking a pardon contains (a) his motion for mental evaluation, (b) a report from a third-party doctor saying that Walker was not competent to help his attorney with his defense, (c) a commitment order, sending him to the Arkansas State Hospital, and (d) a report from the state hospital saying that he was now competent and able to assist his counsel. So, not only was Walker “confined to a mental hospital” at one time, but he was confined specifically because he asked for the testing in the first place.

Not to mention, while there are other false statements in the packet that Bradford might not have been able to determine the veracity of,6 this is one that she absolutely could and should have verified. Her failure to do so–whether because she was willing to lie to help a relative or because she lacked the basic competence needed to check the file before filling out the application–is beyond shameful.7

From start to finish, Barry Walker’s 2004 application for executive clemency reads like someone who is minimizing anything he did wrong and is intentionally omitting details that could have been harmful to his ability to get a pardon. It also shows absolutely zero effort in making sure that basic things–like the docket number and sentence for various traffic charges–were even completed. As legal work, it’s shoddy; as work done by a deputy prosecutor on behalf of a family member, it’s sketchy at best.

And, yet…it’s not even the worst thing that Bradford filed on Walker’s behalf.

***

As part of his no-contest plea deal, Barry Walker was required to register as a sex offender, which he did for the first time on March 29, 2000. On August 16, 2018, Jana Bradford, as Walker’s attorney, filed a petition to have Walker removed from the Arkansas Sex Offender Registry and to end the requirement that he register going forward.

In that petition, Bradford wrote:

If Defendant can show by a preponderance of the evidence…that (a) it has been more than fifteen (15) years since he was released from custody and (b) he “is not likely to pose a threat to the safety of others,” the court shall order Defendant removed from the sex offender registry. Defendant can show both elements necessary for removal from the registry. The court should schedule a hearing so defendant can show that he “is likely not [sic] to pose a threat to the safety of others.”

Again, this was filed in August 2018. By that time, according to more recent court records, Walker had raped at least 29 children. The time period for his multiple rapes of three of the girls (listed as Juvenile 1, Juvenile 2, and Juvenile 3 in court records) overlapped with the very period when Bradford was drafting and filing this motion. That’s bad enough, certainly, but let’s dig a little deeper.

Walker raped at least three girls (Juvenile 16, Juvenile 17, and Juvenile 26) in 1997, two years prior to when he was charged with the initial felony in Sebastian County. He raped four (Juvenile 15, Juvenile 17, Juvenile 22, and Juvenile 30) during the time that he was on parole and serving out his suspended sentence. He raped Juvenile 27 for the first time less than a month after his suspended sentence ran out in 2006. He raped Juvenile 16 and Juvenile 17 during the period that his 1999 felony charge was still pending, and he raped Juvenile 17 again within a couple months of being released on parole. All but one of the 29 victims as of August 2018 was less than 14 years old, with some as young as 4 when the assaults began.

Now, if you are playing devil’s advocate, you might argue that perhaps Bradford was unaware of Walker’s actions during the time that she was representing him. While that argument seems plausible on its face, it’s kind of hard to believe once you realize the extent of Walker’s actions. This is a man that not only raped at least 31 girls, but took hundred of photos and videos of the acts, which he kept neatly organized on a hard drive. At least 19 of the victims were raped multiple times over periods of more than one year. And all of this occurred in and around Glenwood (pop. 2,068) and Amity (pop. 723), AR.

On top of which, Bradford absolutely knew–or should have known with reasonable effort–that a search warrant had been issued in Clark County in 2014 for Walker’s property on Sugarloaf Rd. in Amity. This warrant was issued by Clark County District Judge Randy Hill after a 4-year-old girl told her parents that Walker had touched her inappropriately, according to the August 4, 2022 issue of the Southern Standard.

While they were not able to “fully substantiate” the 4-year-old’s allegations at the time, we now know that these allegations line up pretty well with Juvenile 28, who Walker raped on June 1, 2014.

This, again, is where it matters that Bradford was not merely a private attorney, blithely submitting a petition to remove a client from the sex offender registry. She was a deputy prosecutor, who had been in that role for over 20 years by the time she submitted the petition. Even if nothing came of the 2014 allegations at the time, it is beyond the pale for a deputy prosecutor in Pike County to assert that her uncle is “not likely to pose a threat to the safety of others” and should not have to register as a sex offender in 2018 when he already had a sexual-assault conviction for touching an 8-year-old girl and had been accused of touching a 4-year-old girl barely 4 years prior to the petition.

On top of which, nearly all of the Pike County charges stem from assaults that occurred at Walker’s house at 20 Howell Loop in Glenwood according to court records. According to Bradford’s voter registration she lives at 10 Howell Loop in Glenwood.

“Hey, Siri. Show me the walking distance from 10 Howell Loop, Glenwood, Arkansas, to 20 Howell Loop, Glenwood, Arkansas.”

Bradford lived a literal stone’s throw from a house where more than a dozen girls between the ages of 4 and 14 were raped and/or sexually assaulted hundreds of times by Bradford’s own uncle. You’re telling me that at no point–despite having a daughter of her own who was born in 2005–did Bradford have any suspicions or clues about what Walker was doing mere yards from her own home?

Look, to borrow a line from Letterkenny, “Bad gas travels fast in a small town.” It simply defies logic to suggest that Bradford was not at least aware of rumors about Walker by August 2018. Whether she chose to believe them is something she can discuss with a higher power someday, I suppose. Turning a blind eye to those rumors and the 2014 search warrants and everything else, while writing that your uncle is “not likely to pose a threat to the safety of others” would be bad for any attorney.

For a deputy prosecutor, it’s a blatant disregard of everything she swore to protect when she took the position.

***

Hey, remember earlier in this post when I said that the devil was in the details? Would you believe me if I told you that paying attention to pesky details like, say, Arkansas campaign-finance laws is NOT Jana Bradford’s strong suit?

Assuming you are not Jana Bradford, you might recall that the ethics amendment that Arkansas approved in 2014 made it illegal for campaigns to accept contributions from businesses starting in January 2015. Accepting these illegal contributions is a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, the person shall be removed from public office and barred from holding future public office.

Segues are hard. Anyway, here are some random screenshots of Jana Bradford’s campaign-finance reports:

By my count, that’s 10 illegal contributions, each one of which is a misdemeanor. They total $10,100, or more than half of the total money that she raised from people other than herself.

Not that illegal contributions are the only place where her campaign reports are lacking. In fact, of the 11 reports that she filed, there isn’t one that doesn’t have missing information or other errors, to wit:

  • July 2021 — All 6 contributions are missing the employer info and the loan she’s claiming is recorded incorrectly as a contribution rather than where loans are supposed to be reported.
  • August 2021 — All 7 contributions are missing employer info and all 17 expenditures lack a description.
  • September 2021 — All 5 contributions lack employer info.
  • October 2021 — Both contributions lack employer info, all 8 expenditures are missing a description, and there’s a $250 expenditure to “Rehab Specialist” that sure smells a whole lot like using campaign funds for personal expenses.
  • Fourth Quarter 2021 — One contribution is missing employer info, 2 expenditures without descriptions.
  • January 2022 — One contribution lists “occupation” as “general business,” and no description on expenditures.
  • February 2022 — Failed to carry overall total for Clint Mathis forward, making his cumulative donation total incorrect, and missing employer info and expenditure descriptions.
  • March 2022 — Two contributions are missing employer info, no description for any expenditures.
  • April 2022 — Three contributions missing employer info, no description of expenditure.
  • May 2022 — One contribution missing employer info.
  • Final 2022 — Suddenly claiming $4,438.26 in donations of items that she made to various causes without any reference to date, recipient, item, cost, or anything else to support this claim; no description of expenditure; somehow calculated that $9000 in loans plus $22,174.45 in contributions, minus $26,586.94 in expenditures, equals -$9000, which is the dumbest attempt at math I’ve seen in a very long time.

I dunno, guys. Maybe I am alone in this, but I think its a problem when a lawyer can’t be bothered to learn which contributions are illegal to accept and cannot fill out a single campaign-finance report correctly. Maybe not as big of a problem as that same lawyer putting aside her ethical duties as a prosecutor to attempt to get a child rapist off the sex-offender registry, but, you know…still a problem.

***

Writing this, I kept coming back to the mailer that she sent out. Obviously, if irony were stinky cheese, attacking her opponent for “defending sex offenders” would be Limburger aged in a sweaty gym sock. But check out the front of the mailer as well:

She’s going to “ensure that our district is the safest place to live and work,” “work diligently to seek justice,” “uphold the law,” and “ensure the safety and way of life for our citizens”?

Sounds great on paper, I guess. But I have trouble believing that she will “uphold the law” when she raised half her campaign funds through contributions that have been illegal since 2015. And I am reallllly struggling to figure out where that concern for community safety was when when she was attempting to have Barry Walker pardoned in 2004 so that (according to the petition) he could resume practicing medicine or in filing a petition to have Walker removed from the sex offender registry after he had raped at least 29 girls and had been accused of sexually assaulting a 4-year-old just four years earlier.

It’s just too bad–for the people of the 9th Judicial District West, for Barry Walker’s victims, and for the administration of justice in this state–that none of this came to light until after the May 2022 election. But that is something that we can touch on more in the next post.

***

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  1. For some reason, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette stated that he was convicted on two 1999 charges. Walker only had one felony charge in Sebastian Co. in 1999, to which he pleaded no contest in 2000 and received the aforementioned sentence.

  2. This includes 21 days of jail credit for time served in county jail.

  3. WTF?

  4. Oh, god. Eww.

  5. This is important because, remember, Walker was going to be serving his suspended sentence until March 2006, and this application was submitted in 2004. Omitting the SIS portion would have really thrown a wrench into things if the petition had been granted.

  6. For example, Walker’s claim that he doesn’t use any drugs, despite cocaine being found when his house was raided later on.

  7. It is also something that will be referred to the Committee on Professional Conduct in the near future.

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