The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld the conviction of Oren Paris III, former president of Ecclesia College, in the kickback/bribery scheme involving state money funneled by two then-legislators, Micah Neal and Jon Woods.
The decision doesn’t appear to be a hopeful sign for two others convicted in the case — Randell Shelton and Woods. Shelton was a friend of Woods and “consultant” to the college who was a middleman in the deal that sent state General Improvement Fund money to the college. Some of it was kicked back to the legislators. The court specifically declined the argument Woods and Shelton have pressed over the actions of an FBI agent in wiping his laptop with evidence in the case because, he said, he’d stored some personal information there. They contend some exculpatory evidence might have been discovered. He didn’t testify in the trial. Said the 8th Circuit summary in part:
… investigating agent’s decision to erase his laptop’s hard drive did not entitle defendant to dismissal, as defendant’s argument that the hard drive contained exculpatory evidence – and evidence different than that he already had – is speculation.
Appeals by Shelton and Woods remain before the court. Both are serving prison terms.
Paris pleaded guilty, as did Micah Neal, on the condition he could appeal the actions of the FBI agent. Neal, who turned for the government first, served a stint of home detention. Paris is serving his sentence in Marion, Ill., and scheduled for release in April 2021.