According to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Ecclesia College president Oren Paris, state Senator Jon Woods, and mutual friend and alleged co-conspirator Randell Shelton pleaded not guilty in a bribery and kickback arrangement which has already ensnared a state Representative.
Read the indictment here.
I suspect the defense of Woods, Paris and Shelton will be complicated by the previous plea deal accepted by former state Representative Micah Neal. Neal admitted guilt in the kickback scheme which involved the three men. If the state Senator, college president and friend are found not guilty, then Neal might question the wisdom of his plea deal.
According to the Democrat Gazette, the three men were instructed not to talk about the case.
Despite the indictment, Paris’ college is sticking with him. His board issued a letter of support and at least one Board of Regent member, Eric Metaxas, has expressed support.
Earlier today, popular Christian author Eric Metaxas posted on the Ecclesia College Facebook page and tweeted his support for embattled Ecclesia College president Oren Paris III. On March 2, Paris was indicted for fraud in connection with a kickback scheme which had already taken down an Arkansas state representative. In January, Micah Neal pleaded guilty to fraud and allegedly accepting bribes from Paris. Despite Rep. Neal’s admission of guilt, Paris has repeatedly denied any wrong doing.
On Facebook, Metaxas wrote:
Praying for Oren Paris and the Ecclesia Family. They are some of the most honorable people I know, so expecting great things in the end!
Later, Metaxas tweeted:
— Eric Metaxas (@ericmetaxas) March 15, 2017
Metaxas is listed on the Ecclesia College website as a member of the Board of Regents. Although three members of the Board of Regents didn’t even know they were on the board, apparently Metaxas has embraced Paris and the college.
Read the indictment of Paris and State Senator Jon Woods here.
According to the indictement, Paris sought to enrich himself, his family and Ecclesia College by paying bribes to Sen. Woods and Rep. Neal. In exchange for the kickback payments, those legislators agreed to funnel state discretionary funds to Ecclesia College.
Now that’s embarrassing.
Steve Henderson, H.D. McCarty and Pat Boone are listed by Ecclesia College as members of their Board of Regents. However, the men now say they didn’t know they were listed as members. Pat Boone told Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter Bill Bowden he never heard of the school.
Henderson and McCarty both know about the school and know beleaguered president Oren Paris but they didn’t know they were on the Ecclesia Board.
Paris has been indicted on charges of fraud for his part in an alleged kickback scheme including two Arkansas state legislators, Sen. Jon Woods, and Rep. Micah Neal. Neal has already pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing. Woods and Paris maintain their innocence.
Those listed as Board of Regents are:
Please click on the names below to find out more about our featured Board of Regents members:
Honorable Bob McEwen
Dr. David Barton
Dr. Steve Henderson
Dr. H. D. McCarty
If the leadership of the school would mislead the public about something as important as who is on the Board of Regents, it does make me wonder what else they aren’t being honest about.