STAR CITY — Felony and misdemeanor charges filed last year against Gould Mayor Earnest Nash Jr. have been dismissed, Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter said Thursday.
In a motion filed in Lincoln County Circuit Court, Hunter raised questions about a number of issues in the criminal case. Circuit Judge Rob Wyatt signed the dismissal order Wednesday at the request of the state.
Nash declined comment Thursday, referring questions to defense attorneys Gene McKissic of Pine Bluff and Hank Bates of Little Rock.
Wyatt declared a mistrial Sept. 25 and dismissed a jury of seven women and five men empaneled one day earlier to hear Nash’s trial on felony and misdemeanor charges in Lincoln County Circuit Court. The retrial had been scheduled for April 8.
Nash was charged with one felony count of second-degree forgery, two misdemeanor charges of nonfeasance in office and one misdemeanor count of obstructing governmental operations.
Before dismissing the 12 jurors and one alternate, Wyatt met in chambers with attorneys for the state and defense, and later told the panel they had received evidence that was improper. Wyatt declined to elaborate and to meet with reporters.
The forgery charge stemmed from a checking account Nash established at Pine Bluff’s Simmons First National Bank for a $57,000 grant the municipality received from FEMA and the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM) after flooding in Gould.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Wayne Juneau contended in September that the state would offer proof that Nash has ignored state law, failed to cooperate with the Gould City Council, utilized federal disaster flood aid to repair vandalism at a city-owned structure and forged the council’s authorization on a document establishing the checking account.
Gould aldermen earlier approved resolutions that only then-Recorder/treasurer Pam Barley-Gibson and one alderman could issue checks on city bank accounts. Bates contended there was no evidence that Nash profited personally from the Simmons account and described Nash as a victim of a “long brewing political dispute.”
David Boast, vice president of operations for Simmons, and Kelly Ward, bank new accounts representative, testified that Nash provided the bank with a document indicating he was authorized to open the account and write checks.
Gould residents elected a new recorder/treasurer and council in November, Hunter said in his motion, and the problems that existed between Nash, the council and Barley-Gibson “no longer exist, therefore it is not in the best interest of justice or the citizens of Gould to continue to pursue the nonfeasance charge against the defendant.
“…The state has discovered new evidence regarding the abuse of office and theft of property charges that raises reasonable doubt as to the defendant’s guilt of those charges.”
The forgery charge related to “the opening of a checking account with a false resolution,” Hunter said in the motion to dismiss the charges, (but) “the money spent by the defendant from the account was used to repair city property even though some money was used for a project that was not approved by ADEM … that the money is accounted for and the defendant did not personally profit from the transactions …”