Leader Blues

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

TOP STORY >>Couple found guilty

IN SHORT: Former Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell was convicted of running a criminal enterprise and both he and his wife were also convicted on two dozen other charges.

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

A jury of six men and six women Tuesday found former Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell guilty of running a continuing criminal enterprise (CCE) and he and his wife Kelly were each found guilty of about two dozen other charges, mostly theft of property, residential burglary and obtaining a controlled substance by fraud or theft.

After nearly two months of testimony, the jury deliberated about 16 hours over two days before finding the Campbells guilty of nearly all charges.

Jay Campbell sat still and red-faced as the judge read the verdicts — guilty, guilty, guilty, not guilty.”

Kelly Campbell sat stoically at first but descended briefly into tears before regaining her composure.

Both Jay Campbell’s lawyer, Patrick Benca, and Kelly Campbell’s lawyer, Mark Hampton, said they would appeal on a number of grounds.

In addition to conviction for running a CCE, which has a sentence of 10-40 or life, and conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, Jay Campbell was convicted of two charges of hindering apprehension, one charge of filing a false police report, seven charges of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud, six charges of residential burglary, three charges of theft of property, one charge of theft of services and one charge of theft of property.

The jury convicted Kelly Campbell of three counts of furnishing inmates with prohibited items, including alcohol, drugs and an implement of escape, nine charges of residential burglary, nine charges of obtaining a controlled substance by theft, two charges of theft of property, one charge of theft by receiving, one charge of criminal trespass and one charge of possession of drug paraphernalia.

While Jay Campbell was convicted of the over-arching crime of running the CCE, Kelly Campbell was acquitted of participating in the enterprise, prompting the defense lawyers to ask for a mistrial. Special Judge John Cole said he would rule later on their motions.

Benca has argued since pretrial hearings that there were not enough crimes involving enough people to sustain a continuing criminal enterprise charge, calling it the numerocity argument.

“I guess I’m convicted of being the leader of an organized crime ring with no members in it,” said Campbell after the jury had announced the verdicts and was sent back to determine sentences.

“I still have faith in the system, faith in my lawyers and faith in the Lord,” Campbell said.

“I have three little girls and home that I hope will be with me and their mom for the rest of their lives,” he added.
Lonoke County Prosecutor Lona McCastlain said the verdict proved that the jurors really understood the evidence and the nature of the crimes.

Asked if as a former police chief and deputy sheriff he would serve any sentence in the state prison, Campbell said “I would not ask for any special treatment for who I am or what I’ve done.”

In his sentencing closing, Benca told of first meeting Jay Campbell when Campbell helped him free an innocent man from prison, framed by a bad cop.

“Jay’s going to prison, there’s nothing I can do,” Benca said. But he asked jurors not to run sentences one after the other, but rather consecutively. He said Campbell had been able to help others turn their lives around. “There’s some good in him. Punish him, you have to, but give him an opportunity to lead a good life.

“The jury was completely overwhelmed with the amount of evidence and confused by the CCE statute,” Hampton said.
He said the verdict would be completely overturned on appeal.

In closing arguments before the sentencing phase of the trial, Hampton asked the jury to show mercy to Kelly Campbell, who is 42 years old and had never before been charged with a crime. “You have the ability to not completely destroy (their three children),” Hampton said.

She has emotional and metal problems and physical problems that help explain some of her behavior.
“You have the opportunity to give her a second chance,” he said.

McCastlain told the jury the individual cases were not so much about stealing prescription drugs from friends as about betrayal of trust by the person they should be able to trust the most—their friend and police chief.

“Someone in a position of authority preying on people he pledged to protect.”
“The state asks for consecutive sentences,” said Deputy Prosecutor Jack McQuary. We don’t ask lightly. They are convicted of 23 separate crimes a piece.”