LITTLE ROCK — A federal judge on Tuesday postponed a sentencing hearing that had been set for Friday in the case of a former Central Arkansas circuit judge who pleaded guilty to taking bribes and now wants to withdraw that plea.

LITTLE ROCK — A federal judge on Tuesday postponed a sentencing hearing that had been set for Friday in the case of a former Central Arkansas circuit judge who pleaded guilty to taking bribes and now wants to withdraw that plea.


Michael Maggio, former circuit judge for the 20th Judicial District, has argued in court filings that he did not fully understand the legal issues in his case when he pleaded guilty last year to a federal charge of theft or bribery concerning programs receiving public funds; that no public funds were involved; and that his attorney at the time pressured him to enter the plea.


U.S. District Judge Brian Miller said in an order Tuesday that instead of a sentencing hearing, he will hold a hearing Friday on Maggio’s motion to withdraw his plea. Miller said he will reschedule Maggio’s sentencing, if necessary, after the motion to withdraw has been decided.


Prosecutors say that in 2013 Maggio reduced a Faulkner County jury’s award of $5.2 million to $1 million in a civil suit in exchange for thousands of dollars in contributions to his campaign for the Arkansas Court of Appeals, which he later ended.


A lawsuit pending in Faulkner County Circuit Court alleges that Fort Smith businessman Michael Morton and former Republican state Sen. Gilbert Baker of Conway, the latter a former fundraiser for Maggio, conspired to funnel campaign contributions to Maggio in exchange for a reduced jury award against Greenbrier Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in a negligence suit.


The suit against Morton and Baker was filed by the family of Martha Bull, who died at the center, owned by Morton, in 2008.


Morton and Baker have denied wrongdoing. They have not been charged with a crime.


In September 2014, the Arkansas Supreme Court ordered Maggio’s removal as a circuit judge and said he could never serve as a judge in the state again because of several violations of Arkansas’ rules of judicial conduct, including posting on an Internet forum confidential information about the adoption proceedings of actress Charlize Theron.