FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — The lead FBI investigator in the corruption case of a former Arkansas state senator said he acted improperly when he had a computer used to collect evidence wiped clean.
Secretly recorded conversations between ex-Sen. Jon Woods and former state Rep. Micah Neal were the focus of a Thursday hearing in U.S. District Court, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported .
FBI Special Agent Robert Cessario testified that the audio files downloaded using the laptop were transferred to discs and provided to attorneys in the case. But defense attorneys discovered gaps in the record provided.
Cessario was ordered to turn the laptop over to computer experts at the FBI's state headquarters in Little Rock after the discrepancy was brought to light at a November pretrial hearing, according to court records. Before that, Cessario had the laptop professionally erased because it contained personal medical records, the investigator said. Then he personally erased the computer's hard drive again before turning it in.
"I should not have done that," Cessario testified.
He said his intent wasn't to conceal or obscure the evidence, but to ensure personal medical records were gone.
Woods and Neal are accused of taking kickbacks in return for steering $550,000 in state grants to Ecclesia College in Springdale. The Republicans are also accused of accepting kickbacks in return for directing $400,000 in grants to a Bentonville nonprofit called AmeriWorks.
Neal pleaded guilty in January 2017 to conspiracy to commit fraud. He hasn't been sentenced. Woods has pleaded not guilty.