Former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson is once again in legal trouble after a Benton woman and company CEO filed a civil suit Monday in Pulaski County Circuit Court. Chirie Bazzelle, CEO of the behavior health firm New Beginning Behavioral Health Services, claims Hutchinson breached his ethical obligations.
This suit comes weeks after Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced Bazzelle is facing a number of felony charges. Bazzelle allegedly failed to report contracts with former Arkansas lobbyist Milton "Rusty" Cranford, Robin Raveendran, former executive for Preferred Family, and her ex-husband, Michael Grimes, who is a convicted felon.
In the suit, Bazzelle claims that Hutchinson became the attorney for her company is 2013. He reportedly "handled corporate legal matters and gave advice and counsel to NBBHS on how to comply with extremely complex Medicaid regulations," according to the suit.
Three years later, NBBHS was having a contractual dispute with Raveendran. "The company had learned that it had been defrauded by Raveendran and another contractor by the name of Rusty Cranford," according to the suit.
At the time, Hutchinson was an attorney for both NBBHS, Robin Raveendran and his company. "Hutchinson was also a silent partner in a company owned by Raveendran and gained financial benefit from an association Raveendran duped Bazzelle and NBBHS into underwriting called the Alliance for Health Improvement," according to the suit.
Bazzelle claims that Hutchinson had a duty not to take on Raveendran as a client. "He knew Raveendran and his company were a vendor of NBBHS and that there was a possibility that the two entities may have some dispute," Bazzelle claims.
If Hutchinson believed he could represent both clients, Bazzelle claims in the suit that he should have disclosed that to both clients. "Hutchinson should have disclosed his conflict as attorney for both entities instead of breaching his ethical obligations to each firm while pretending to be working to resolve the dispute between them," according to the suit.
Bazzelle also claims Hutchinson was negligent when he did not file a personal injury claim for her personally before the statute of limitation expired. In 2012, Bazzelle was seriously injured which caused her to be hospitalized for two weeks and bed ridden for three months. She would later undergo one year of rehabilitation. After becoming aware of Bazzelle's personal injury case, Hutchinson reportedly "offered to manage the process of either negotiating a settlement with the tortfeasors who caused Bazzelle's injuries or file suit against them," according to the civil suit. When asked about his process on the suit, Hutchinson would say he was "working on it," but the statute of limitations for the claim expired on Dec. 30, 2015.
"It was not until Hutchinson was terminated that Bazzelle learned from her new attorneys that Hutchinson had failed to file an action on her personal injury claim," according to court documents.
Bazzelle is requesting an "amount to be determined by a jury, for punitive damages, attorneys' fees and for any and all relief to which they may be entitled," according to court documents.
Along with this suit, Hutchinson is facing charges in both Arkansas and Missouri. In March, Tom and Bontiea Goss — CFO and COO for Preferred Family — were charged in a case, along with Hutchinson, all of which was included in a 30-plus page federal indictment filed in Missouri. All three pleaded not guilty to all charges, including criminal conspiracy, bribery, theft and honest services fraud.
A judge recently ruled the trial for this case would be delayed until April 2021. According to reports, the trial could last up to two months and is expected to include more than 2.5 million files of evidence and prosecutors have identified more than 100 witnesses.
In addition to the case in Missouri, Hutchinson is also facing charges in the Natural State. Hutchinson has been indicted on more than 10 counts of wire and tax fraud.
Hutchinson, who represented Saline County constituents in District 33, served in the Arkansas Senate from 2011 to 2018. He was also previously elected to serve in the state House of Representatives in 2000. Following his indictment on charges in Arkansas, Hutchinson submitted a resignation letter to Gov. Asa Hutchinson.