LITTLE ROCK — A former Central Arkansas circuit judge who pleaded guilty in January 2015 to accepting a bribe is asking a federal judge to allow him to withdraw the plea.

LITTLE ROCK — A former Central Arkansas circuit judge who pleaded guilty in January 2015 to accepting a bribe is asking a federal judge to allow him to withdraw the plea.


An attorney for Michael Maggio, former circuit judge for the 20th Judicial District, filed a motion Friday in U.S. District Court in Little Rock to withdraw Maggio’s guilty plea and dismiss the case against him. Maggio’s sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 26.


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 brief in support of Maggio’s motion argues that the charge to which he pleaded guilty was theft or bribery concerning programs receiving public funds, but in fact no public money was involved.


"There is no connection with any business of the state of Arkansas, 20th Judicial District or any agency thereof," the brief states.


The filing also claims Maggio is innocent of taking bribes and "only admitted that he did because he was pressured by his previous counsel and threatened by the U.S. attorney with the indictment and prosecution of his wife." It also alleges that he received ineffective assistance from counsel when he entered the plea.


As of Friday afternoon, online court records still listed Lauren Hoover and Marjorie Rogers as attorneys for Maggio, but attorney James Hensley Jr. was added to the list Feb. 5 and is the only attorney whose name appears on Friday’s filing.


"It was not until Maggio obtained new counsel that he fully understood and appreciated the legal issues in this case," the filing states.


Federal prosecutors did not immediately file a response to the motion.


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 Greenbriar 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.


Maggio’s other Internet postings included off-color jokes about ethnic groups, gays and bestiality. He also posted that he wanted to be assigned cases involving attractive women and sexual subject matter.