Leader Blues

Friday, August 25, 2006

TOP STORY >>Judge is reluctant to hold big trial

IN SHORT:Nov. 8 court date set for Campbells and others, but it may be difficult to try them together.

Leader staff writer

Even as Lonoke County Prosecutor Lona McCastlain argued Friday for a single, month-long proceeding in the 78-count indictment against popular former Lonoke police chief Jay Campbell, his wife and four others, Circuit Judge John Cole noted repeatedly that such a mega trial would be unwieldy or impossible, signaling that he was predisposed toward conducting two or more trials.

Cole tentatively set a Nov. 8 the trial on charges that Campbell masterminded a continuing criminal organization or enterprise that stole drugs and money, influenced inmates with drugs and sexual favors, conspired to manufacture methamphetamine, burgled homes and beat and intimidated witnesses between October 2002 and December 2005.

Others charged were Kelly Campbell, bail bondsmen Larry Norwood and Bobby Junior Cox, former police department dispatcher Amy Staley and Lonoke Mayor Thomas Privett.

McCastlain on Tuesday dropped all charges against all defendants, and then refilled the same charges and another 37 charges, saying the individual alleged crimes were constituent parts of the alleged ongoing criminal enterprise.

The criminal enterprise charges are especially important, because if the defendants were found guilty of those, sentences for some other convictions would be enhanced.

All defendants, except Lonoke Mayor Thomas Privett, charged with a single misdemeanor for theft of services, were in the courtroom and pled not guilty to the new round of charges.

Privett is accused of having work release inmates work on his sidewalk and fix his air conditioner at his home. All have indicated they would file to have their cases severed from the others and that they would also file motions to quash the criminal enterprise charges.

Cole said he would hear those motions at a pretrial conference at 9 a.m. Sept. 8 and set other pretrial conferences for 9 a.m. Sept. 21 and for 9 a.m. Nov. 2.

Cole, hearing the case or cases in the place of Circuit Judge Lance Hanshaw, who has recused, said he was considering hearing the trial at the Cabot Courtroom because of its possible length.

“In charging the former chief with an ongoing criminal enterprise, the state alleges that Campbell “did unlawfully and feloniously engage in a continuing criminal organization or enterprise in the first degree by committing, at-tempting to commit or soliciting to commit a felony predicate offense and that offense was part of a continuing series of two or more predicate criminal offenses which were undertaken by (Campbell) in concert with two or more other persons with respect to whom (Campbell) occupies a position of organizer, supervisor or any other position of management, a special classification of felony,” according to a 19-page information filed with the 39-page bill of particulars.