Leader Blues

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

TOP STORY >>Campbell defense will start Thursday

IN SHORT: Former firefighter testified Tuesday that he was the fall guy in a meth-manufacturing conspiracy designed to find a fugitive friend who ran out on a $130,000 bond.

Leader staff writer

After a month-long parade of prosecution witnesses, defense attorneys for Jay and Kelly Campbell will get a turn at bat when testimony in the sprawling corruption, drug and theft trial resumes Thursday morning at Cabot.

The defense is expected to ask Special Circuit Judge John Cole for a directed verdict of not guilty Wednesday, among other motions, while the court deals with transcripts and other housekeeping in the absence of the jurors.

The Campbells’ trial continues without former codefendant bail bondsman Bobby Junior Cox after Cole severed his trial from the others Monday.

No new date has been set for Cox’s trial for conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine and possibly for solicitation of capital murder.

“I am thankful we can finally get into our end of the case now,” said Patrick Benca, former Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell’s lawyer.

The defense case is expected to take seven to 10 days of testimony—maybe 27 witnesses—according to Benca. He said his client would testify in his own defense. Attorney Mark Hampton said he would decide later whether to put his client, Kelly Campbell, on the witness stand.

Cox, Jay Campbell and Larry Norwood are the three charged with conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine.
Jay Campbell is charged with running a continuing criminal enterprise, and his wife and Cox are charged with participating in that enterprise.

Prosecutor Lona McCastlain maintains that Jay Campbell and bailbondsmen Cox and Larry Norwood had Ronald Adams cook a batch of meth. She said the idea was to sell meth to Roger Light so that Lonoke police could bust and pressure him to reveal the whereabouts of Gene Beasley. Beasley jumped bond, leaving Cox and Norwood responsible for a $130,000 bail bond.

Light said he had been best friends with Beasley since “the first day of first grade” in 1964.

Adams testified last week that he had cooperated to cook the meth, and Tuesday, Light told of buying methamphetamine from Adams on Sept. 7, 2004, and being stopped and arrested minutes later by state troopers and Lonoke Police Capt. Sean O’Nale in Lonoke County, about 14 miles outside of town.

Light, a former Little Rock firefighter now employed by Lonoke County Judge Charlie Troutman as a driver on his road crew, said that after he was arrested, he was questioned by O’Nale, an FBI agent and the bail bondsmen who seemed interested only in finding Beasley.

The state has entered a mind-numbing array of telephone records as evidence, tracking minute by minute calls between Adams, O’Nale, Jay Campbell, Norwood and Cox as that day unfolded.

He said O’Nale found the methamphetamine in his sock and took him to the Lonoke city jail.
Ten minutes later “Cox walks in saying he’s there to help me,” Light testified.

“If I could tell them where Gene was, all these charges would go away,” he said.
“I didn’t know where he was.”

“This was all about Gene,” said Light. “O’Nale said ‘I guess you know by now you’ve been set up.’”
He said there was little interest in where he got his drugs, whether he sold, whether there was a drug problem at his fire department…

Deputy Prosecutor Stuart Cearley asked, “Most of the questions dealt with Gene?”
“That was the basic point,” Light said.

Light said he told them, “If he’s anywhere, he’s in Jacksonville, Florida, with his sister.”

Light later agreed to call Beasley’s sister in Florida to see if she new where he was, but she didn’t or wouldn’t say.

Light said Campbell came into the interrogation to tell him to cooperate with Cox and the others and to pretend that he had found a call from Beasley on his cell phone. He told Cearley that when McCastlain talked to him about testifying in the Campbell trial, “She made it perfectly clear that she was offering me no deal.”

O’Nale, Campbell’s second in command, testified that Campbell had asked him to help arrest Light and that he knew Light was believed to have information on Beasley.

But he disagreed with Cearley that the questioning of Light was “all about Beasley.”

The same day, Campbell called Lt. Jim Kulesa of the sheriff’s office to report that he had found a meth lab out in the county and had put it in his car and brought it to town.

“Meth labs should be left in place,” Kulesa said.
Adams—the confessed cook—left a partial fingerprint on a piece of the lab, according to earlier state Crime Lab forensics experts.