- Associated Press - Monday, May 18, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A former Arkansas treasurer convicted of steering state investments to a broker who bribed her with cash should serve up to nearly 20 years in prison, federal prosecutors argued Monday, saying a lighter punishment would send the wrong message about public corruption.

The United States attorney’s office argued a 15- to nearly 20-year sentence recommended in a presentencing report is the proper guideline for a judge to consider for former Treasurer Martha Shoffner, who was convicted last year on bribery and extortion charges. Shoffner’s attorney earlier this month said she should instead get 12 to 18 months with half in home detention.

“The defendant’s requested sentence is too low for the conduct in which she engaged,” prosecutors said in Monday’s filing. “The sentence requested by the defendant would not deter others from committing similar acts and may give the perception that public officials are above the law in terms of punishment.”

Shoffner, a Democrat, was convicted last year of steering the investments to a broker who gave her $36,000 in cash, sometimes stashed in a pie box. She resigned in 2013, days after she was arrested by the FBI in a sting operation. A date has not been set yet for her sentencing hearing.

Shoffner’s attorney has argued that the 71-year-old should be given a lesser sentence because of her age. He also said her faith, her remorse and the punishment of prosecution that she’s “already endured” should also be considered in the sentencing. His filing had included statements of support from friends.

Prosecutors acknowledged the letters of support but said “the evidence presented at trial also shows her character when she believed that no one important was looking.”

Shoffner has also objected to the presentencing report using the about $2.4 million in commissions broker Steele Stephens received from the investments to advocate for a longer sentence.

“If the bribery had been discovered at its inception, Stephens’ commissions would have dropped to zero because he would not have been able to continue business with the state,” the prosecutors’ filing said. “That Stephens gained bond business with the treasurer’s office as a consequence of his arrangement with the defendant is apparent.”

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Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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