Leader Blues

Saturday, September 09, 2006

TOP STORY>>Trial set to start Nov. 8

IN SHORT: Lonoke judge wants Campbells and bondsmen tried together in corruption case.

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader staff writer

Former Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell, his wife Kelly Campbell and two bail bondsmen will be tried together beginning Nov. 8 on a sprawling array of charges, Special Judge John Cole ruled Friday at Lonoke.

Defense attorneys, who had sought separate trials for each of the four defendants, expressed surprise at Cole’s ruling, believing that the judge had signaled repeatedly at the Aug. 25 hearing that a combined trial, maybe a month long, would be unwieldy or unmanageable.

He did leave the door cracked Friday, saying “I’m denying the motion for severance at this time.”
The state appointed Cole to hear the case after Circuit Judge Lance Hanshaw recused.

Cole also refused Friday to dismiss overriding charges alleging that Campbell was the mastermind of an ongoing criminal enterprise, that the other three were confederates and that the other 76 charges were committed as part of and proof of the criminal enterprise.

The state alleges that Campbell’s enterprise 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.

Kelly Campbell is alleged to have had sex with two inmates for a total of about 24 times, supplying them with alcohol, drugs and a cell phone, according to the charges, and with numerous counts of stealing drugs and other valuables with her husband. Bail bondsmen Larry Norwood and Bobby Junior Cox will be tried with the Campbells, according to the Cole’s ruling.

In the most serious of the charges, the former chief and the two bail bondsmen are accused of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamines as part of a complicated scheme to find a man who fled while on bond.

If the defendants are convicted of criminal-enterprise charges, some of the lesser charges would carry enhanced sentences and the sentences for criminal enterprise charges would be even greater.

Defense attorneys argued that the state failed by definition to meet the criminal enterprise statute requirement of involving at least three defendants and that they had committed at least two felony crimes of violence or for financial gain.

Arguing to dismiss the criminal- enterprise charge against Norwood, attorney Jeff Rosenzweig said that even if conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine were “a predicate criminal offense” involving three people, there was no second such offense, and thus, no criminal enterprise.

Most allegations are that the Campbells stole prescription drugs or other things of value from friends and neighbors—two people, not three, and certainly not involving Norwood.

In her arguments, McCastlain cited cases holding that not all enterprise members had to be “under the defendants’ supervision at the same moment nor in the conduct of the same underlying felony, but must merely be under the defendants’ supervision in the conduct of the same continuing enterprise.”

“The defense is trying to hold the state to a burden not required,” she responded to a similar argument made by Jay Campbell’s lawyer, Patrick Benca. “The motion (to quash) is premature,” said McCast-lain, who argued that the proper time for the judge to consider dismissing the criminal enterprise charges was not before the trial, but in a directed verdict after the state has put on its case.

Cole refused to quash the criminal-enterprise charges against any of the defendants, but declined to discuss his reasons.
Attorneys for both Campbells and for Cox piggybacked their arguments on Rosenzweig’s arguments on Norwood’s behalf.

Benca argued that McCastlain filed criminal-enterprise charges because her other cases were likely to be severed and she wanted them tried together. “Now she’s looking for crimes back to 2003,” he said.

Lonoke Mayor Thomas Privett’s misdemeanor theft-of-services charge and former police department dispatcher Amy Staley’s felony charges for having sex with inmates have been severed from the others.

Cole set the next pretrial hearing for 1 p.m. Sept. 21, and asked that any motion for change of venue be argued at that time.