Hively convicted

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Staff Writer

Former 16th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney T.J. Hively was convicted March 9 on five counts of racketeering and fraud. Hively, the 16th Judicial District's prosecutor from 1993 to 1998, could face up to 40 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. His trial was held in Little Rock.

The government charged Hively with using his elected office as a criminal enterprise. It accused Hively, his former law partner, Wesley John "Butch" Ketz, and bail bondsman Gary Wayne Edwards of coercing possible criminal litigants into turning over money and property in exchange for lenient prosecutions.

"Public corruption has been formally identified in the eastern district of Arkansas as a particular priority for both the U.S. attorney's office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation," said U.S. District Attorney Bud Cummins.

Hively was originally charged with 64 counts of racketeering and fraud in 2001. In March 2002, 48 of the charges were thrown out by the judge. His trial last week dealt with the remaining 16 counts.

The five counts consisted of one count of racketeering and four counts of mail fraud. The racketeering conviction carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. The four mail fraud convictions combined carry a maximum 20-year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine.

Cummins said the sentence against Hively is likely to be much less. He said U.S. District Court Judge George Howard Jr. will determine Hively's penalty. He said the judge is likely to use the sentencing measures prescribed in the U.S. sentencing guidelines. He said the sentencing phase takes a month or more. Cummins said he expects Hively to serve jail time.

Hively didn't issue a statement concerning his conviction. His co-defendant, Ketz, was found guilty on one count of racketeering and two counts of mail fraud. Ketz's attorney released a statement saying Ketz was disappointed with the decision. Gary Edwards was acquitted on all charges.

Cummins said these convictions were a result of hard work. He said thousands of hours went into this prosecution and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service and U.S. attorneys office should be commended.

"Cases like this are inherently difficult to prosecute. The defendants are well educated, there are thousands of documents and it all has to be expertly boiled down into a simple story a jury can fairly consider," said Cummins.

Cummins added, "Convic-tions like this should send a message that federal law enforcement will not spare any resource to bring deviant office holders or unscrupulous attorneys to justice."

Hively is expected to appeal his conviction.

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