Former State Senator Jon Woods (R)-Springdale, AR, was the only elected official in the state of Arkansas to endorse Donald Trump in the 2016 Republican Presidential Primary. He was indicted just a year later on March 1, 2017. Lead FBI Special Agent, Robert Cessario, who worked Mr. Woods’ case was removed from the investigation after having his government issued laptop professionally wiped on December 4, 2017. He again did so, personally, on December 6, 2017, just days before trial was to begin. In doing so, the FBI and DOJ successfully prohibited the defense from obtaining hidden exculpatory evidence that would have changed the outcome of the trial. Judge Timothy Brooks, an Obama appointed judge, went a step further, during a trial that lasted 19 days, prohibiting the defense from informing the jury of the FBI agent’s actions which resulted in an unfair trial and a conviction on May 3, 2018. 

What is happening with Robert Cessario? 

After a four-year investigation conducted by the Office Inspector General (OIG), the agency concluded that the FBI Special Agent Robert Cessario had broken the law in several areas resulting in a guilty plea deal on August 17, 2022. Cessario was sentenced January 5, 2023, at the Isaac C. Parker Federal Court House in Fort Smith, Arkansas for violation of 18 U.S.C. SS 1512(c)(1), corrupt destruction of an object in an official proceeding. The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), which represents over 30,000 defense attorneys in the US, wrote an Amicus Curie to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit that was filed on July 3, 2019. The Amicus Curie stated that this Court should reverse the decision of the District Court, and remand this case with instructions to dismiss the indictment.

Will justice be served? 

Sadly, to date, the courts have issued only a symbolic slap on the wrist to the prosecution while hanging the defendant. In September 2018, former Senator Woods was sentenced to 220 months in a federal prison and is incarcerated at FCI-Bastrop, Texas to this day, while Robert Cessario is free and living a semi-normal life. With counsel for the prosecution requesting that Cessario be sent home with one year of unsupervised probation, there are many questions unanswered regarding the fate of justice in this case.