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Trump’s Get Out of Jail Free Card for a Convicted Scammer Is Full of Half-Truths and Omissions

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Arkansas businessman Ted Suhl was given a rare commutation after serving less than half of a seven-year sentence for bribery and fraud. We annotated the official White House announcement to fill in some key missing details.

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On July 29, President Donald Trump commuted the sentence of Ted Suhl, an Arkansas businessman who was released after serving about two and a half years of a seven-year sentence for bribery and fraud, after a campaign led by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

We examined the White House announcement of the commutation and found multiple omissions and misleading statements. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.


Misleading. Spokespeople for Arkansas’ governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and top two legislative leaders told ProPublica they didn’t encourage the commutation.

Omission. In 2016, a federal jury in Little Rock found Suhl, who ran faith-based behavioral health treatment centers for adolescents, guilty of bribing a state official (disguising the money as donations to a church) to direct Medicaid payments to his program. The trial judge said Suhl used “religion to grease the skids of a bribe.” An appeals court found “strong evidence” that he paid bribes.

Uncertain. Allison Bragg, an assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Arkansas, said she didn’t know whether her office had declined to pursue the matter but added that it’s “not terribly unusual” for Washington to take on a case. “We are a pretty small office.”

Incorrect. Suhl was convicted on four of six charges: federal funds bribery, interstate travel in aid of bribery and two counts of fraud that deprives others of honest services. (Suhl’s lawyer did not respond to requests for comment.)

Omission. A Suhl facility, the Lord’s Ranch, was investigated in the 1990s for allegedly physically abusing juveniles, according to press accounts, but was not prosecuted. Huckabee called that “hearsay” and said the facility was “turning kids lives around.”

Omission. Huckabee, Suhl’s champion in the commutation process, received $6,000.00 in campaign contributions from Suhl and related interests many years ago but told ProPublica that had “nothing to do with why I helped him. I helped him because I feel like he’s innocent, and so do other people.” Huckabee, who now lives in Florida, declined to name other Arkansas “leaders” who favored a commutation.

Misleading. Cummins, who left as U.S. attorney a decade before Suhl was tried, told ProPublica he was hired by Suhl’s family last year to review the case, then was asked to write a letter supporting the commutation (but was not paid for the letter). He said Suhl’s sentence was “on the harsh side.”

Misleading. Spokespeople for Arkansas’ governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and top two legislative leaders told ProPublica they didn’t encourage the commutation.

Omission. In 2016, a federal jury in Little Rock found Suhl, who ran faith-based behavioral health treatment centers for adolescents, guilty of bribing a state official (disguising the money as donations to a church) to direct Medicaid payments to his program. The trial judge said Suhl used “religion to grease the skids of a bribe.” An appeals court found “strong evidence” that he paid bribes.

Uncertain. Allison Bragg, an assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Arkansas, said she didn’t know whether her office had declined to pursue the matter but added that it’s “not terribly unusual” for Washington to take on a case. “We are a pretty small office.”

Incorrect. Suhl was convicted on four of six charges: federal funds bribery, interstate travel in aid of bribery and two counts of fraud that deprives others of honest services. (Suhl’s lawyer did not respond to requests for comment.)

Omission. A Suhl facility, the Lord’s Ranch, was investigated in the 1990s for allegedly physically abusing juveniles, according to press accounts, but was not prosecuted. Huckabee called that “hearsay” and said the facility was “turning kids lives around.”

Omission. Huckabee, Suhl’s champion in the commutation process, received $6,000.00 in campaign contributions from Suhl and related interests many years ago but told ProPublica that had “nothing to do with why I helped him. I helped him because I feel like he’s innocent, and so do other people.” Huckabee, who now lives in Florida, declined to name other Arkansas “leaders” who favored a commutation.

Misleading. Cummins, who left as U.S. attorney a decade before Suhl was tried, told ProPublica he was hired by Suhl’s family last year to review the case, then was asked to write a letter supporting the commutation (but was not paid for the letter). He said Suhl’s sentence was “on the harsh side.”





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Thanks !

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