Leader Blues

Monday, March 05, 2007

TOP STORY >>High-profile witnesses kick off trial

IN SHORT: As the corruption case begins, prosecutors present circumstantial evidence that the Campbells stole drugs, but no one could confirm on the stand that drugs were taken in their presence.

Leader staff writer

Some well-known Lonoke-area residents testified Friday that former Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell and his wife Kelly Harrison Campbell took prescription painkillers, or that such drugs were missing after visits from one or both Campbells, as the first witnesses took the stand at Cabot.

The trial was moved to Cabot to prevent disrupting circuit court at Lonoke for the three to six weeks of the trial.

Lonoke County Prosecutor Lona McCastlain has charged the Campbells with about 72 counts, mostly drug-or-theft-related, in-cluding operating a continuing criminal enterprise. Co-defendant Bobby Junior Cox, a bail bondsman, faces four counts and will not be much in evidence in the early phases of the trial, according to his lawyer, John Wesley Hall.

Jay Campbell is charged as the kingpin of the continuing criminal enterprise and the other two with participating in that enterprise.

The former chief also is charged with conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine with bail bondsmen Cox and Larry Nor-wood. Norwood is being tried separately.

Most of the balance of Jay Campbell’s charges are for residential burglary for theft of drugs or other items of value.

Kelly Campbell is charged also with residential burglary and stealing prescription drugs or obtaining them by fraud, with having sex with two of her husbands’ inmates and with supplying them with alcohol, drugs and a cell phone.

Cox, in addition to the criminal enterprise and conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, is charged with intimidating a witness and terroristic threatening.

Many of the charges against the Campbells stem from visiting friends at their homes—particularly after illnesses or operations when the resident might have painkillers.

Prosecutors allege that Jay Campbell would occupy the residents with friendly conversation while his wife excused herself to the bathroom and rummaged for prescription painkillers.

Kelly Campbell’s lawyer, Mark Hampton, cross-examined witnesses, asking whether they actually saw her take any drugs. No one did.

Jay Campbell’s lawyer, Patrick Benca, routinely asked if his client was ever out of sight of the witness or had any opportunity to have stolen drugs. No, he was told.

Among those who testified were Brother Jimmy Wallace, former Lonoke County Circuit Clerk Becky Wilson and her husband Mike Wilson, Alderman Woody Evans and former Alderman Jackie Moore and his wife Donna.

Under questioning by Mc-Castlain, Chief Deputy Prosecutor Stuart Cearley and Deputy Pro-secutor Jack McQuary, many witnesses said Friday that they still attend church with the Campbells and some had close friendships that seemed to unwind as they suspected that the Campbells might have stolen drugs and other things from them and sometimes broken into their houses.

One after another, the witnesses took the stand to testify about the Campbells and their missing prescription painkillers. In some cases, one or both Campbells are charged with taking the drugs, in others, the state filed no charges but offered evidence merely “as evidence of motive, opportunity and intent.”

None of the prosecution witnesses seemed eager to testify against their former friends but most said they were no longer friends.

The Moores testified that they had twice vacationed at Gulf Shores with the Campbells, the first time sharing a condominium.
Moore said he had known the Campbells for nine or 10 years. In 2003, after suffering lower back problems and kidney stones, Moore had hydrocodone to help with the pain. He kept his pain pills on top of the refrigerator, he said, and discovered one day that one bottle was empty.

“Kelly was the only one I remembered (who had been in the house),” Moore said.

Moore’s wife Donna discovered that several pieces of her jewelry were missing, including her class ring. She identified the jewelry from the witness stand. The state has said it would prove Kelly Campbell took those items.

Hampton cross-examined both Moores, asking if their children played together in one another’s homes and bedrooms and whether there might be another explanation for how Donna Moore’s jewelry ended up at the Campbells’.

Jackie Moore said “the Terminx guy” was the only other person who might have been in the house—and that he was Jackie’s cousin and friend for decades.

Neither Campbell is charged with theft of drugs from the Evans home because the statute of limitations had expired.
That is known as “404B” evidence, and Special Judge John Cole warned jurors that evidence might not be considered to prove the character of a defendant or “to show that he acted in conformity.” It is “not to be considered to establish a particular trail of character.”

It took two and a half days to seat the jury of six men and six women, with two male and two female alternates for a marathon trial that could see as many as 300 witnesses called and last as long six weeks.

No sooner had the state laid out its case in opening arguments against the three codefendants Thursday afternoon than each defense lawyer began distancing his client from the others.

Jo Lynn Martin Talley, who had been friendly, if not friends, with Kelly Campbell for many years, said she arrived home one day to find two back doors broken in. She backed out of the drive, went to the Lonoke Police Department and returned with two officers who made sure there were no criminals in the house.

At Talley’s request, they began dusting for fingerprints.

Chief Campbell arrived in a few minutes.

“He asked me if any drugs were missing,” said Talley. “I was thinking more like T.V.s and VCRs,” she said, noting that she hadn’t found anything missing.

“I got a phone call five minutes later from Kelly Campbell saying her fingerprints were going to be all over my house,” Talley said.

She said Kelly Campbell told her that she had seen that the house had been broken into and went in to make sure Talley was okay, then left, locking the broken doors behind her.

Talley testified that Campbell had never been to her new home and that the broken doors would not have been visible from the street.

Talley said that weeks later, she was cleaning the drawers in the bathroom and noticed that a bottle of hydrocodone cough medicine was missing.

Later, Kelly Campbell came to M&M Florist, where Talley worked, followed her into a back area and said “Jo, I would not steal anything from you.”

“Why are your fingerprints all over my house?” Talley asked her.

During opening arguments Thursday, McCastlain called Campbell an experienced lawman, very charismatic, a family man and a good father.

She said he was the kind of man that friends could leave their house keys with when they were out of town—and that he betrayed that trust.

She said the goals of the continuing criminal enterprise were money, drugs, receiving personal services from Act 309 inmates, sex and gratification and continuing without detection.

McCastlain alleged the conduct of the enterprise included diverting money from cash funds seized in arrests, improper arrests, exploitation of the Act 309 inmates, residential burglary for prescription drugs.

The conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine was part of a convoluted plot to force a criminal to reveal the whereabouts of another who skipped out on his bond, leaving Cox liable for a $130,000 bond, according to the prosecutor.

Although all three defendants are being tried at the same time, the guilt or innocence for each will be determined separately.
In his opening argument Thursday, defense attorney Hall said Cox was guilty of nothing and that as a bail bondsman, he has extraordinary powers, such as the power to search a home without a warrant.

He said McCastlain was almost done with her opening statement before she even mentioned his client. He said the continuing criminal enterprise charge required that his client be found guilty of two underlying violent crimes or for personal gain, and that wouldn’t happen.

When you listen to all this testimony, Hall said, ask yourself, “What does this have to do with Bobby Cox?”

“Bobby Cox’s case is based on snitches,” Hall said, for a “get-out- of-jail-free card.”

“You may not hear from me for a couple of weeks,” said Hall, implying his client had nothing to do with most of the charges.

Defense attorney Benca said the state would present two types of witnesses—felons and drug users on the one hand, and the former and current friends from whom the Campbells allegedly stole. He said those people didn’t press charges and were testifying only because they had been subpoenaed.

Benca said that if Kelly Campbell had stolen the alleged medication, it required a leap of faith to believe that Jay Campbell knew that’s what she was doing and was an active participant.

You won’t hear of Jay taking drugs, having a drinking problem, improper sex or failing a drug screen, Benca said. “He had no motive to take anything.

“Jay is devoted to his wife, stands by her and believes in her,” Benca said, “but he’s not responsible for her choices.”

“Listen to every witness, determine their credibility,” said Benca. “Let the smoke clear and see what’s left. There will be no fire.”

Defense attorney Hampton told the jurors that novelist John Grisham couldn’t have come up with a more outlandish story than the one McCastlain wanted them to believe. “To believe that Jay Campbell is the mob boss of Lonoke County—it is absurd.”

Still, he seemed to lay the groundwork for a defense that Kelly Campbell was more a victim than a criminal. She suffered a number of medical problems and underwent a series of back surgeries that left her in chronic pain, he said. The mother of three had miscarried three times and “lost her father,” suffering heartache. He said she was “very vulnerable, but a good mother and a good wife.

He said jurors would hear private and intimate things because of the nature of the state’s charges. “It’s going to be embarrassing at times,” said Hampton. “She’s made some bad judgments she’s not proud of, but if Jay can forgive her, I’m asking you to forgive her.”

As for the elements of the continuing criminal enterprise, “there’s no proof she knew of any of those acts,” he said. “Did her husband really commit those acts?”

Hampton said that the vast majority of testimony against the Campbells would be given by convicted criminals who might be eager to get back at the chief by destroying his family.