LITTLE ROCK — A federal judge on Thursday sentenced a former deputy director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services to 2½ years in prison for accepting bribes.

LITTLE ROCK — A federal judge on Thursday sentenced a former deputy director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services to 2½ years in prison for accepting bribes.


Steven B. Jones, 51, of Marion pleaded guilty in October 2014 to conspiracy to commit bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds and honest services wire fraud. At a hearing Thursday in U.S. District Court in little Rock, Judge Billy Wilson sentenced Jones, ordered him to pay a $6,000 fine and said his prison term will be followed by one year of supervised release.


Jones served as deputy director of DHS from April 2007 until July 2013. Federal prosecutors said that between April 2007 and February 2012, Jones solicited and accepted multiple cash payments and other things of value from Ted Suhl of Warm Springs, the owner of two mental-health facilities for juveniles, and that in exchange for the bribes Jones agreed to perform official acts that benefited Suhl and his businesses.


The bribes Jones received had a total value of more than $10,000, prosecutors said.


Suhl was indicted in December on one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services fraud, three counts of honest services fraud, one count federal funds bribery and one count of interstate travel in aid of bribery. His case is scheduled to go to trial July 12.


Phillip W. Carter, 47, of Marion, a former West Memphis city councilman and Crittenden County probation officer, was sentenced to two years in prison after he admitted that he and a local pastor received payments from Suhl and funneled them to Jones through the pastor’s church.


Jones’ lawyers called five witnesses Thursday who described various acts of public service Jones has performed, such as securing a grant for the state Martin Luther King Jr. Commission to fund summits around the state on non-violence; helping the Earle Church of God in Christ secure funds to avoid foreclosure; and helping the Earle School District secure funds to start a tutorial program.


"His motivation has always been caring about people," said former Earle School District superintendent and state senator Jack Crumbly.


His voice choked with emotion, Jones asked Wilson for lenience.


"I got involved in something that was bad, a lapse of judgment," Jones aid. "I should have risen above it and did the right thing and taken the high road, but I didn’t."


Defense attorney Rickey Hicks asked the judge to sentence Jones to community service instead of prison.


"He has really served his community. Sometimes when people trip and fall, they need the rest of us to help them get up as well," Hicks said.


Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela Jegley told the judge, "This is not simply a situation where Mr. Jones had poor judgment and exercised it one time. He exercised poor judgment in violating the law at least 10 times, and (possibly) as many as 20, and it happened over a period of years."


Wilson granted Jegley’s request to impose a sentence at the low end of the sentencing guidelines applicable to Jones’ case. Jones’ wife, Susan, burst into tears as Wilson announced the sentence and embraced him after the hearing adjourned.