NewsEvents

Rutledge Asks Retailers to Remove Unwashed Poppy Seeds from Shelves

Says, ‘unwashed poppy seeds contain substantial amounts of morphine, codeine and thebaine’

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced she has sent a letter to online retailers, including Amazon, Ebay and Etsy, requesting the removal of unwashed poppy seeds from online products. In May, Attorney General Rutledge released an Attorney General Alert warning of the dangers of unwashed poppy seeds and telling the story of Stephen Hacala, who died from morphine intoxication after consuming so-called poppy seed tea made from unwashed poppy seeds.

“This letter outlines the unknown dangers of unwashed poppy seeds,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Although washed poppy seeds are approved for consumption for use such as baking ingredients, unwashed poppy seeds can contain substantial amounts of morphine, codeine and thebaine, which are harmful Schedule II controlled substances.”

Earlier this year, Attorney General Rutledge met with Steve and Betty Hacala to hear the heartbreaking story of their son, Stephen. Stephen had purchased unwashed poppy seeds from Amazon to make so-called poppy seed tea, presumably with the hope of achieving the “trip” that online Amazon reviewers reference. In April 2016, Stephen was found dead in his apartment in Fayetteville with a partially used 5-pound bag of poppy seeds and a water bottle containing some of the wet seeds. An autopsy, performed by Dr. Stephen Erickson at the Arkansas State Crime Lab, revealed that Stephen Hacala died of morphine intoxication.

“We want to thank General Rutledge and her office for taking proactive actions to warn consumers and to motivate online and traditional retailers to remove unwashed poppy seeds for sale,” said Steve Hacala. “There is no legitimate use for unwashed poppy seeds, and their sale and distribution needs to be stopped to protect consumers and close another channel for users to obtain opioids. These actions will save lives.”

“I have tried to separate myself from the pain of these families for 25 years now,” Dr. Erickson said. “But when a loved one like Stephen Hacala dies, I technically become that family’s doctor. I’m just so tired of seeing the heartbreak. You shouldn’t be able to buy these things off the internet that are so dangerous and can kill you so easily.”

Attorney General Rutledge is asking these online retailers to remove all unwashed poppy seeds from their online catalogs and affiliated stores to help prevent the deaths of consumers in the future. Walmart has already taken action to no longer be part of the problem by removing unwashed poppy seeds from their shelves.

Rutledge Names Nicholas Bronni as Solicitor General

Thanks Lee Rudofsky for his service to the office and State

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today named Nicholas Bronni of Little Rock as Solicitor General at the Attorney General’s Office following the departure of Lee Rudofsky, who has served in that role since July 2015.

“Since joining the office in April 2016, Nicholas Bronni has consistently used his legal expertise to successfully defend common sense abortion regulations, battle federal overreach, and pursue justice for crime victims,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “His experience as Deputy Solicitor General and at the United States Securities and Exchange Commission has given him the knowledge and expertise to continue the great work Lee Rudofsky has done as Arkansas’s first Solicitor General.”

Solicitor General Bronni said, “I look forward to using my experience to continue to assist Attorney General Rutledge in protecting Arkansans from criminals and scam artists as well as push back against federal overreach.”

Bronni, a Camden native, is a 2005 magna cum laude graduate of the University of Michigan Law School. He received his undergraduate degree summa cum laude from George Washington University. Prior to joining the Attorney General’s Office, Bronni was a Senior Litigation Counsel with the Appellate Litigation Group at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and was an associate in the appellate and Supreme Court litigation practice at Gibson Dunn and Crutcher LLP in Washington, D.C. He also clerked for the Honorable Jay S. Bybee of the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. Bronni also serves as an adjunct professor of law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Bowen School of Law, where he teaches appellate litigation skills. Bronni lives in Little Rock with his wife, Sarah, and daughter, Margaret.

Rutledge announced the creation of the Solicitor General position in 2015, appointing Rudofsky to hold the inaugural position for the State of Arkansas. He will depart the office having advised Attorney General Rutledge on several key proceedings, including being the only state in America to successfully terminate Medicaid program funding to Planned Parenthood. He organized a multistate, bipartisan and multimillion dollar lawsuit against the State of Delaware to the U.S. Supreme Court and successfully guided litigation allowing the execution of convicted murderers by lethal injection. Rudofsky is also credited with implementing the office’s first formal moot court program to prepare office attorneys for argument as well as establishing a clear review process of all briefs going to the 8th Circuit and Arkansas Supreme Court.

On the departure of Rudofsky, Rutledge said, “Lee has been a trusted advisor and a key member of my staff over the past three years. He has been a stalwart defender of the rule of law and represented Arkansans honorably during his time in public service.”

“I will be forever grateful to Attorney General Rutledge for giving me the opportunity to serve the people of Arkansas in this special role,” said Rudofsky. “I will be forever grateful to my colleagues in the Attorney General’s Office for their friendship, collegiality, dedication and teamwork. And I will be forever grateful to the people of this great State for welcoming me and my family with open arms and warm hearts.”

Rudofsky’s last day with the Attorney General’s Office is July 20. He will be joining Walmart’s anticorruption compliance team in Northwest Arkansas.

Rutledge Statement on the Nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge released a statement following the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Donald J. Trump.

“Once again, President Donald Trump has appointed one of the country’s top legal minds to serve on the nation’s highest court,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Judge Kavanaugh currently serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C. and has worked in President George W. Bush’s administration, at the Justice Department and even clerked for Justice Kennedy. Judge Kavanaugh has continuously supported reigning in the over-regulation of the Environmental Protection Agency during the Obama Administration, as well as deeming the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unconstitutional. His legal experience and educational background make him an exceptional choice by the President and one that I fully support. I know Judge Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court Justice will continue to protect the liberties of all Americans.”

Rutledge Announces #MissingPersonMondays Outreach

LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced the launch of #MissingPersonMondays in coordination with stakeholders and law enforcement agencies from throughout Arkansas. The social media campaign will highlight one individual listed on the NeverForgotten.ar.gov site every Monday throughout the year using various social media platforms.

“Missing Person Mondays is a direct result of last year’s Never Forgotten event,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Last year, I hosted a listening session for families of missing persons to provide input and guidance on how the law enforcement community could better work with families as they deal with the difficult and emotional process of searching for their loved ones. In collaboration with many stakeholders, this social media campaign will uniformly highlight one missing person every Monday and drive traffic to the NeverForgotten.ar.gov site, where there are over 500 of our state’s missing persons listed. I strongly believe that someone, somewhere knows something about each of these missing persons cases, and this is just one of many ways we can shine light on these cases to bring information and hope to the families and law enforcement.”

Each weekly announcement will be posted on the Arkansas Attorney General’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, in addition to each of the stakeholder sites. The post will include a photograph of the missing person, the date they went missing, place last seen and the social media handle for the law enforcement agencies investigating the case. To launch the program, Anthony (Tony) Allen, the longest listed missing person from Arkansas, will be the first featured by the program and the following weeks will include other individuals in chronological order by date last seen.

In addition to the Attorney General’s Office, committee stakeholders include: Arkansas Crime Information Center, Arkansas Governor’s Office, Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy, Arkansas State Crime Lab, Arkansas State Police, Criminal Justice Institute, FBI, Morgan Nick Foundation, NamUs, David Clark and Henry La Mar.

For more information on missing persons in Arkansas, please visit NeverForgotten.ar.gov.

ICYMI: Religious conscience must be protected

LITTLE ROCKSunday, an op-ed written by Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge emphasizing the importance of religious freedoms, appeared in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Independence Day is more than fireworks and barbecue. It is a wonderful time for Americans to reflect on the true foundations of our great country. Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court has reminded us of one of the most fundamental of those ideas: Americans should not be forced to participate in activities that violate their religious beliefs against their conscience.

As attorney general, it is my duty to prioritize and defend the rule of law, including our constitutional rights. Over the past few years I have been closely engaged in several legal cases that touch at the heart of Americans' fundamental right of freedom of speech.

Last week the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) by striking down a California law that required crisis pregnancy centers to provide information on abortions, a position that was contrary to their religious beliefs. The Court found that California lacked justification to force pro-life entities and counselors to speak a message with which they disagreed. The Court, therefore, invalidated California's attempt to force pregnancy centers--entities specifically set up to provide an alternative to abortion clinics--to post large advertisements providing information on the existence of free and low-cost abortions.

Likewise, in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the Supreme Court criticized and ruled against a state agency that appeared to be penalizing the thoughts and speech of religious persons. It found that Colorado's Civil Rights Commission failed to give consideration to the religious-based reasons that prompted a baker to refuse to design and bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. Since the baker designs cakes for LGBT clients for occasions other than marriage, the Court found the Civil Rights Commission to be unnecessarily hostile to and dismissive of the baker's religious objections.

Justice Kennedy's majority opinion was particularly concerned that the baker's religious reason for refusing to design a cake for a same-sex wedding was treated more harshly than the Commission treated non-religious reasons for not designing cakes given by other bakers in other cases. The Court found that the differing standard of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission disfavored religion and persons of religious conviction.

The lessons that emerge from these cases are the same lessons about our Constitutional rights taught in civics classes around the country. Each of these cases is about liberty of conscience--the inability of the government to dictate how citizens think and feel without punishment for believing something different than others believe.

Retiring Justice Kennedy, in one of his final concurrences, scolded the California Legislature for its self-proclaimed "forward thinking" by forcing individual speech and beliefs. He suggested the state gain historical perspective on the Founders' foresight for the First Amendment created during a time of suffocating "authoritarian regimes." Ultimately, a liberal state's policies should never insult the beliefs of religious persons and require such persons to act contrary to those beliefs in a misguided attempt to purify society of such beliefs.

Based on its decision in Masterpiece, the Supreme Court has already sent another religious liberty case, in which I led a multi-state supporting effort, back to the Washington Supreme Court to reconsider. Arlene's Flowers is facing massive state fines for refusing to design unique and artistic floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding despite the owner's history of serving LGBT customers for other occasions.

The state Supreme Court's decision to punish the owner for refusing to use her artistic talents to celebrate a message that violates her religious beliefs should meet with the same fate as the state of Colorado's position in Masterpiece. I similarly led another multi-state effort to support a small business owner of faith in Kentucky. In that case, Hands-On Originals, a small family-owned T-shirt company, is being punished by the state for refusing to design shirts supporting a gay pride parade. Thus far, the owner has prevailed, and it is my hope that after Masterpiece, the Kentucky Supreme Court will rule that the state may not force a person to write something that conflicts with his or her core beliefs.

Each of these cases is about conscience, the ability for a person to refrain from doing or speaking against deeply held beliefs. These cases are not about same-sex marriage or LGBT rights. No one thinks it would be acceptable for a state to force someone to make a proclamation of faith. Why should anyone be forced by a state to make a proclamation that is in opposition of their faith?

I am proud of these recent victories as they underscore our founding principles to ensure liberty for all Americans. Protecting opposite viewpoints--even when we disagree with them--is as important now as it was on that first Independence Day.

Rutledge Announces Arrest of Little Rock Man for Medicaid Fraud

LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge today announced the arrest of a Pulaski County man for scamming $2.2 million from the Arkansas Medicaid Program.

“Robin Raveendran, a known Medicaid expert, knew how to exploit the program for self benefit,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “He took advantage of a system which provides important care to Arkansans by misrepresenting more than 20,000 services totaling over $2 million. As Attorney General, it is important for me to hold criminals accountable in order to deter future fraud within the Medicaid system.”

Robin Raveendran, 62, of Little Rock, was arrested by agents with the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit Thursday night, and transported to Independence County. He is charged with two counts of Medicaid fraud, one Class A felony and one Class B felony. He is accused of coordinating an effort which reimbursed his company for 20,109 illegally billed mental health services for a total of $2,277,816.05 from January 1, 2015 to October 19, 2017.

Medicaid fraud occurs when providers use the Medicaid program to obtain money to which they are not entitled. To report Medicaid fraud or abuse or neglect in residential care facilities, contact the Attorney General’s Medicaid fraud hotline at (866) 810-0016 or oag@arkansasag.gov.

Arkansans can report public corruption to the Public Integrity Division by calling 833-45-TRUST (833-458-7878) or email ARTrust@arkansasag.gov.

July
17
Tuesday

Never Forgotten

Never Forgotten Arkansas Takes Action artwork

Benton Event Center

The Attorney General’s office, in partnership with other law enforcement agencies and the Morgan Nick Foundation, will provide training sessions from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the 7th annual Never Forgotten — Arkansas Takes Action event, which is intended to raise awareness of issues surrounding missing persons and to honor Arkansas’s missing children and adults.

Training sessions will include:

  • Derek VanLuchene, CART Program coordinator with the National Criminal Justice Training Center – AMBER Alert Training and Technical Assistance Program, as well as president and founder of Ryan UnitedMaci Lilly Case Study: Derek VanLuchene, CART Program coordinator with the National Criminal Justice Training Center – AMBER Alert Training and Technical Assistance Program, as well as president and founder of Ryan United, will present the case study of 4-year-old Maci Lilly. Maci, who was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, was abducted from a playground in Montana in February 2016. Maci’s disappearance led to a statewide Amber Alert and a successful recovery. VanLuchene will discuss working with child witnesses and how to locate resources in an active search and recovery.
  • Sarah Krebs, a detective sergeant – forensic artist with the Michigan State PoliceUsing Biometrics to Identify the Missing: Sarah Krebs, a detective sergeant – forensic artist with the Michigan State Police, will explain how her evidence-based drawings and three-dimensional reconstructions aid in the investigation of unidentified remains, the apprehension of suspects, and the resolution of missing person cases.

Never Forgotten eventFollowing the training, participants are invited to a luncheon ceremony to begin at noon to recognize families of missing children and adults and law enforcement officers who are devoted to solving missing persons cases.

This course is expected to qualify for three hours of Continuing Law Enforcement Education (CLEST).

View the complete agenda and register for sessions here.

Missing Adult Resource Guide
A new Missing Adult Resource Guide will be distributed. Order copies online.

For more information, contact Rachel Ellis at 501-682-3645 or rachel.ellis@arkansasag.gov.

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July
19
Thursday

Baxter County Resources Day

Van Matre Activity and Wellness Center
1101 Spring Street, Mountain Home

Mobile Office
9:30 to 11 a.m.

Prescription Drug Take Back
Law enforcement partner: Sheriff John Montgomery
9:30 to 11 a.m.

Identity Theft and Scams Presentation
10 to 10:30 a.m.

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July
24
Tuesday

Clay County Resources Day

Clay County Cooperative Extension Office – Piggott
148 East Main Street

Mobile Office
10:30 a.m. to noon

Prescription Drug Take Back
Law enforcement partner: Sheriff Terry Miller
10:30 a.m. to noon

Prescription for Life Presentation
11:30 a.m. to noon

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July
26
Thursday

Sebastian County Resources Day

Fort Smith Senior Activity Center
2700 Cavanaugh Road

Mobile Office
10 to 11:30 a.m.

Prescription Drug Take Back
Law enforcement partner: Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck
10 to 11:30 a.m.

Prescription for Life Presentation
11 to 11:30 a.m.

 10:00 AMVIEW 
July
31
Tuesday

Marion County Resources Day

Marion County Senior Activity & Wellness Center
5966 Highway 202 East, Flippin

Mobile Office
10 to 11:30 a.m.

Prescription Drug Take Back
Law enforcement partner: Sheriff Clinton Evans
10 to 11:30 a.m.

Scams and Identity Theft Presentation
11 to 11:30 a.m.

 10:00 AMVIEW 
August
2
Thursday

Randolph County Resources Day

Randolph County Cooperative Extension - Pocahontas
2500 U.S. Hwy 62 West

Mobile Office
10:30 a.m. to noon

Prescription Drug Take Back
Law enforcement partner: Sheriff Gary Tribble
10:30 a.m. to noon

Prescription for Life Presentation
11:30 a.m. to noon

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