Leader Blues

Friday, September 08, 2006

TOP STORY >>City Corruption

Story by
JOHN HOFHEIMER

Lonoke residents are reeling at the news that its top gun with a reputation for being tough on meth cooks and users has himself been charged with conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine. Meanwhile, his wife is charged with having sex with prisoners, and the mayor with having inmates work at his home.

Lonoke Mayor Thomas Privett has called a special city council meeting for 5:30 p.m. today to discuss the future of Police Chief Jay Campbell. Privett placed Campbell on paid administrative leave after the chief was arrested Monday on conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine and theft charges, among others, but some city councilmen don’t think Campbell should be paid.

Campbell, his wife and two bail bondsmen all were arrested on felony drug charges and other charges Monday, and Privett was charged with a misdemeanor for having jail inmates do work around his house. An investigation begun about six months ago into whether or not some Lonoke city officials improperly used Act 309 inmate labor to fix a boat and hang Christmas lights has boat and hang Christmas lights has resulted in the charges that Campbell conspired to manufacture meth-amphetamine and that his wife had sex with prisoners about two dozen times, supplying some with liquor and marijuana.

Surrender to sheriff Chief Campbell, his wife, Kelly Harrison Campbell, and bail bondsmen Bobby Cox Jr. and Larry Norwood all surrendered to the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office Monday on an array of felony drug, alcohol and/or theft charges and were booked and released on bond, according to Sheriff Jim Roberson. Cox, Norwood and Chief Campbell each posted $50,000 bond and Kelly Campbell posted a $20,000 bond. They will be arraigned March 13.

Privett, who also surrendered, posted a $500 bond for his lone count, misdemeanor theft of services. Privett’s arraignment is set for April 3. Several months ago, the state Corrections Department found that some Act 309 inmates— state prisoners who are moved to towns and counties to provide labor and alleviate overcrowding — were doing personal work for city officials.

The ADC decertified the city’s Act 309 program and took the inmates back to prison.


State investigation

At the request of the Corrections Department, the State Police then initiated the investigation that resulted in the filing of charges by Lonoke County Prosecutor Lona McCastlain. Privett, who has said that he used inmate labor to fix his home air conditioner, to hang his Christmas lights and to mow a lot in town belonging to a friend, admits he should have known better. He has never denied those actions. He said Tuesday that the charge brought by McCastlain was “politically motivated” and promised he would mount a vigorous defense.

“Ms. McCastlain has a history of using her power as prosecuting attorney to bring charges that generate headlines, but have no substance,” Privett said. Mark Hampton, representing some of the accused, also has called the charges political.
McCastlain hasn’t announced her candidacy, but is widely believed to be seeking reelection in November.

In a brief news conference to announce the charges Tuesday, McCastlain disputed allegations that her actions were politically motivated. “This case was investigated (by the State Police) on its merits and charged on its merits. I play the cards as dealt,” she said. “I disagree (with paying the chief’s salary),” Alderman Michael Florence said Tuesday. He said he was not the only alderman who felt that way, and he encouraged Privett to call the special session on Wednesday.

Alderman Pat Howell said he could see paying Campbell for a while, but pointed out that court cases like these could play out for a couple of years. Capt. Sean O’Nale has been named interim chief, a position he held for about a month last summer while an internal investigation was conducted into the allegation of abuse of inmate labor. Privett said he would like to assure Lonoke residents that there would be “no disruption in the quality law enforcement that they are accustomed to.”


Morale hit

“Morale has taken a hit,” said O’Nale, but he said the officers were professionals and that residents would continue to receive high quality protection and service from the department. Privett called the charges “a tragic endeavor to disrupt the mayor and city council in their efforts to complete the important functions of municipal government.” Privett hired Campbell, a former Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office deputy, as chief in October 2003. Camp-bell now stands accused of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, two counts of hindering apprehension or prosecution, conspiracy to commit burglary, theft by receiving, theft of services and one misdemeanor, theft of property.

The conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine is punishable with a term of 6 to 30 years.


Wife charged

Kelly Campbell was charged with five counts of furnishing prohibited articles, one count of second-degree escape, one count of residential burglary, four counts of obtaining controlled substances by fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit residential burglary, one count of theft of property and one misdemeanor charge, tampering. Cox was charged with manufacturing methamphetamine, intimidating a juror, a witness or an informant and terroristic threatening.

Norwood was charged with a single count of criminal conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine. The chief’s wife allegedly had sexual relations with at least two of the Act 309 inmates, according to Charles McLemore, investigator for the State Police.


Sex with prisoners

Prisoner Andrew Baker told McLemore that Kelly Campbell had a “very close relationship” with at least two Act 309 prisons, Shane Scott and Tim Ainsworth. Scott told McLemore and Arkansas Department of Corrections officials that he had sex with Kelly Campbell 18 to 20 times in various places in the city and the county. Among those places were the Lonoke Holiday Inn Express, at the police department, in the ball park press box, once at the Campbell home on Cherry Street and numerous times in Campbell’s Suburban in the Department of Human Services parking lot next to the jail.

Ainsworth told investigators that he had sex at least four times with the chief’s wife and then asked to return to prison for fear of getting in trouble and having to serve more time. Officers, jailers and dispatchers confirmed the relationships and said Kelly Campbell came and went freely from the jail and that the chief would not discuss it with them. At the instruction of their supervisor, Lisa Marty, dispatchers noted Kelly Campbell’s visits in the jail log.


Chief irate

“When the chief found out, he became irate,” reported McLemore. The jail logs reflect some of the comings and goings in the jail, as did the security cameras, reported McLemore, but “a lightning storm ‘supposedly’ hit and knocked out the cameras destroying the video.”


McLemore’s affidavit was sworn Feb. 6.

He reported that Kelly Campbell brought vodka, gin and Crown Royal and other bottles of alcohol for Act 309 inmates.
Baker also reported that she brought marijuana into the jail for some inmates and reportedly gave Scott a cell phone with which they could communicate “regularly.” Baker told McLemore that he had taken photographs of Kelly Campbell and Scott in various intimate poses while the prisoners were working on Chief Campbell’s party barge and motor in the Otasco building owned by Privett. Baker said she paid him $260 to keep his “mouth shut.”


Drugs taken

Kelly Campbell also is charged with breaking into a neighbor’s house and taking jewelry and prescription drugs.
The items were taken from the home of Jo Talley in March or April of 2003. Talley reported the break-in around noon, and the Lonoke police searched the house and took fingerprints at her request. Chief Campbell came by and asked if any medications were missing.

Kelly Campbell then telephoned Talley to say she had noticed the back door broken and had let herself in to make sure everything was all right, so her fingerprints would be all over the house. The fingerprints were lost and never developed. A prescription bottle of the narcotic hydrocodone syrup was later found to be missing.

At least three other people complained that painkilling medication was missing from their homes after a visit by Kelly Campbell. She also is charged with stealing jewelry worth several thousand dollars and 30 gold Krugerrands worth more than $25,000. Chief Campbell is charged with helping sell the jewelry to a pawn shop, “then calling in a panic to get it back,” according to McLemore’s affidavit.


Meth conspiracy

Chief Campbell also is charged with entering into a conspiracy with bail bondsmen Cox and Norwood to manufacture methamphetamine. According to McLemore’s report, the two bondsmen needed leverage on a man named Roger Light, who could lead them to someone who skipped, leaving them potentially forfeiting a large bond to the courts.

McLemore said that with Campbell’s help, they told Ronald Adams they could make his drug charges in Lonoke County and Jacksonville go away if he would cook some meth, sell it to Light and let them bust Light and force him to help find the man who skipped bond.

According to McLemore’s affidavit, O’Nale, now the acting chief, actually arrested Light. Campbell and Norwood then took Adams’ meth lab and reported it to the Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office as “found on the road.” McLemore said the conspiracy came to light because Adams reported the incident to the State Police after nothing was done to help him out of his drug cases.