By Steve Barnes
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Reuters) - A former Arkansas judge forced from the bench for disclosing confidential information about an adoption by actress Charlize Theron pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge on Friday in an unrelated case.
Michael Maggio of Conway, Arkansas, admitted to accepting $24,000 in campaign contributions from the owner of a nursing home two days before reducing to $1 million from $5.2 million a jury's negligence award against the nursing facility.
"Maggio admitted that his decision to remit the judgment was improperly influenced by the donations that his campaign received from the business owner," Assistant U.S. Attorney Pat Harris of Little Rock said in a statement.
"Maggio further acknowledged that he attempted to delete text messages between the campaign fundraiser and himself after the contributions from the business owner were disclosed by the media."
Maggio, 53, was stripped of his judgeship last year by the Arkansas Supreme Court and its Committee on Judicial Responsibility after he acknowledged disclosing on a sports-related website details of an adoption, carried out in an adjoining courtroom, by the award-winning South African actress and texting racially offensive remarks.
Papers filed on Friday in federal court at Little Rock identified the nursing home owner and political operative only as "Individual A" and "Individual B" respectively.
The FBI has acknowledged that the campaign contributions have been under investigation for months.
The charge of bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, three years supervised release and up to $250,000 in fines, plus restitution. A sentencing date has not been set.
(Reporting by Steve Barnes in Little Rock; Editing by Eric Beech)