Paul Bookout, former Arkansas state senator from Jonesboro, pleads guilty to mail fraud charge

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FILE - In this April 7, 2011, file photo, State Sen. Paul Bookout, D-Jonesboro, comments about congressional redistricting proposals in the hallways of the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark. Bookout, a former Arkansas state senator pleaded guilty on Wednesday, March 11, 2015 to a federal mail fraud charge connected to his spending more than $150,000 in campaign money on clothing, liquor, a sound system and other personal items. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)


FILE - In this Jan. 15, 2014 file photo, John Cooper is interviewed in a hallway at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark. The former Arkansas state senator has pleaded guilty to a federal mail fraud charge connected to his spending more than $150,000 from a campaign fund, Wednesday, March 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)


LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — A former Arkansas state senator pleaded guilty on Wednesday to a federal mail fraud charge connected to his spending more than $150,000 in campaign money on clothing, liquor, a sound system and other personal items.

Former Sen. Paul Bookout of Jonesboro, a Democrat who stepped down two years ago over ethics violations related to the campaign misspending, entered the plea in U.S. District Court. A sentencing hearing hasn't been set for Bookout, who faces up to 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.

Prosecutors said Bookout, 52, spent $150,048 from his 2010 and 2012 re-election bids on the personal items while filing reports with the state claiming they were legitimate campaign expenses. Prosecutors said other items he spent campaign money on included tanning sessions, manicures and travel expenses. During a brief hearing, Bookout said little other than responding to Judge Brian Miller's questions and entering his plea.

"In a betrayal of his oath of office and his duty to the citizens of Arkansas, Mr. Bookout violated the integrity of our government and disrespected those he served by selfishly and brazenly spending campaign funds for his personal use," David Shepard, assistant special agent in Charge of the Little Rock FBI, said in a statement issued after the plea hearing.

As part of his plea deal with federal prosecutors, Bookout agreed to pay the money back as restitution. Bookout apologized for the misspending after the hearing.

"I want to sincerely apologize to my family, my former constituents and the people of Arkansas," Bookout said in a statement released by his attorney. "I have cooperated with both state and federal prosecutors throughout this process. My plea today reflects my acceptance of responsibility. I plan to work with all of my ability to make this right with my family, my former constituents and my community."

Bookout served six years in the state House before being elected to the state Senate in 2006 to replace his late father, Jerry Bookout. He was re-elected in 2010 and 2012, and served as president of the chamber in the 2011 and 2012 sessions.

He was the last Democrat to head the state Senate before Republicans won control of the state Legislature in 2012.

Bookout stepped down in 2013 after the state Ethics Commission fined him $8,000 for misspending campaign money. The Ethics Commission said his spending included $5,043 for women's clothing and accessories, $8,402 for home theater equipment and installation, and $1,305 for golf equipment at a country club. The panel also said more than $18,000 from the campaign was transferred to Bookout's personal bank account.


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