ROGERS (KFSM) – Rogers City Attorney Ben Lipscomb is eliminating negotiated plea bargaining in city District Court cases, he said in a letter to local lawyers this week.
As a result, the only options are a guilty plea or a trial, the letter states.
The Dec. 8 letter is addressed to “all attorneys practicing criminal law in Rogers District Court.”
Lipscomb said the plea deals that have already been offered on pending cases will be honored.
He said the decision to end plea bargaining was due to “politically motivated budget cuts and staff reductions.”
In September, the Rogers City Council approved an ordinance isolating the city attorney’s duties to prosecutorial matters. A new staff attorney position, filled by Chris Griffin, takes over civil matters and acts as the city’s legal advisor, jobs that Lipscomb said should fall under his own duties.
In early November, Lipscomb filed a lawsuit, alleging the ordinance was unconstitutional because it singled him out and curtailed his job duties to prosecutorial matters only. The ordinance kept Lipscomb from representing Rogers in any other legal matters as the city attorney.
In a response filed Nov. 26, Mayor Greg Hines and the City Council state the city is immune from the punitive damages Lipscomb is seeking because it has legal protection as a municipality against such action. The response goes on to state Lipscomb “is not a resident of the city of Rogers and thus has no standing to bring this suit because he does not legally qualify to serve as the city attorney of Rogers.”
The response does not state where city officials believe Lipscomb lives, but the city attorney is listed by emergency crews and in directories as living at a home on Dearhurst Road in Rogers near Beaver Lake
Lipscomb was involved in a criminal investigation by a special prosecutor in August and September. Crawford County prosecutor Marc McCune investigated whether Lipscomb broke any laws by using a city badge to gain entry into a VIP tent at a Miranda Lambert concert over the summer at the Arkansas Music Pavilion in Rogers, according to investigation documents released by McCune’s office.
McCune announced Sept. 5 that Lipscomb would face no criminal charges in the matter. McCune was appointed as a special prosecutor in the case to avoid any conflicts of interest by local prosecutors.