Dear Fellow Reporters –
Yesterday was a VICTORY for the Arkansas Court Reporters Association and its members. Was it complete justice? No. But there was a time that we didn’t know if ACRA would ever see the day Mike Ashcraft would be held accountable. Mike certainly did everything in his power to try to circumvent any type of justice, including deleting ACRA’s Quickbooks, destroying records and evidence, and refusing to cooperate every step of the way. Mike lied, then lied to cover his lies, up to the very end. Mike dismissed and ignored every request made by the Board and ACRA’s attorney to obtain ACRA’s financial information so that we could attempt to recreate the books he intentionally and deliberately destroyed. The last thing Mike wanted was for the truth to be uncovered, and he tried his best for three and a half years to prevent this day from ever happening. This Board has not talked to Mike since his letter of resignation in July 2018. We spent countless hours trying to obtain financial information that he could have turned over himself, but would not. He could have cooperated from day one, but he refused.
Thankfully, Special Agent Massiet was assigned to our case and – although it wasn’t total justice – the three-and-a-half-year investigation exposed the truth, recovered a small portion of what Mike stole from members, and Mike walked away a felon.
What Mike did was not a mistake or a misunderstanding. He intentionally, deliberately, and repeatedly stole money from our organization.
Let me start by saying that many – including the Board – share the sentiment that Mike Ashcraft should have paid back every penny he stole and should forever be a felon. There is no excuse for what Mike did. None. He portrayed himself as a trusted member of our court reporting community, held positions of trust and authority, served on our disciplinary Board and handed down punishments for acts far less egregious than his own. The moment he knew he was caught, he went to great lengths to make sure the truth would be near impossible to uncover. Despite his best efforts, ACRA prevailed.
ACRA had two options: (1) Accept a plea deal OR (2) present this case to a jury of Mike’s peers and risk the chance that one person on the jury would say ‘not guilty’ – it only takes ONE person – and Mike would away with no conviction, zero accountability, and not pay back a single dime of what he stole.
When the Board was presented with this plea offer from the Special Prosecutor, did we think it was complete justice? No. Absolutely not. This investigation only covered three years of Mike’s twelve-year tenure as treasurer. We will never truly know how much Mike stole and the extent of damage he caused, because from day one, until the end, he destroyed evidence and refused to cooperate with ACRA. In 2018 Mike, through his attorney, Hani Hashem, agreed to recreate ACRA’s Quickbooks that he deleted. Mike has not recreated the books to this day.
When Mike was exposed, he offered no apology, explanation, or remorse. He did read a letter of apology in court yesterday, but probably because ACRA asked that that be part of the plea deal. If Mike Ashcraft was truly sorry, he would have offered that apology voluntarily three and a half years ago and cooperated with the investigation
Although the plea deal was not perfect, not what our members deserved, it DID offer the assurance that Mike WOULD BE held accountable for his actions and would be a felon. Mike is now known for the person he truly is – a thief and a liar.
Yesterday Mike plead guilty to a Class D felony, paid restitution of $15,460.76 to ACRA, paid the Attorney General’s office for their costs, was given three years unsupervised probation, and read a letter of apology in court. Mike walked away a felon yesterday and admitted he stole money from ACRA members. Yesterday was a good day. Despite Mike’s best efforts, he was held accountable for his actions.
On a personal note, if I sound mad, hurt, frustrated, betrayed, angry and absolutely exhausted, it’s because I am. I served on the Board with Mike for six of my eight years. I trusted him. He was my ‘friend.’ I thought we shared a passion for the success of this organization and our profession. Everything I believed to be true about Mike Ashcraft was a lie. Then to see him turn his back with no remorse after he was caught, with no intention to admit the truth, no desire to apologize to those he wronged was devastating and was hard to process.
WE DESERVE BETTER. It is my hope that our court reporting community will stand together to keep the integrity, honesty, and professionalism at the forefront of who we are…..and accept nothing less.
The ACRA Board spends a lot of time behind the scenes working for you and this profession. I am grateful for our Board and appreciate all their hard work.
Thank you all for your Facebook posts, calls and texts. It has been an honor serving on the ACRA Board in the past, and I will continue to be one of our profession’s biggest cheerleaders and supporters of our organization.
- Edited to add that Dana Hayden was also very involved in this investigation and instrumental in this outcome. Thank you as well, Dana, for your time and hard work.
All my best,