Leader Blues

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

TOP STORY >>Chapter 2 of Lonoke trial is set to resume

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

It’s too early to know whether or not he will charge bail bondsmen Bobby Junior Cox and Larry Norwood with solicitation for capital murder in regard to their alleged attempts to hire a hit man to kill a prosecutor and a star witness, Special Prosecutor Larry Jegley said this week.

Jegley said he had just received a copy of Special Judge John Cole’s order appointing him to prosecute the two men, who were codefendants of former Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell and his wife Kelly until Cole severed their trials from those of the Campbells.

“I’ve pretty much got a clean slate on this,” said Jegley. “First I’ll evaluate speedy trial issues and get with the judge.”
Without the jury in the room, Ron “Bear” Tyler testified in the recent Campbell trial that Cox tried to hire him to kill Lonoke County Prosecutor Lona McCastlain and meth cook Ronald Adams, and that Norwood was in the car when they scoped out the homes of the purported victims.

Since McCastlain was an alleged victim, Cole assigned the trials away from her office to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

Until Tyler’s testimony, Cox was a co-defendant with the Campbells, but because of Tyler’s testitimony, Cole declared a mistrial regarding Cox and severed his trial from that of the Campbells.

Even if results of the current state police investigation don’t warrant the murder solicitation charges, the two men are charged with conspiring with Jay Campbell to manufacture methamphetamine.

Cox also is charged with terroristic threatening and participating with Campbell in an ongoing criminal enterprise.
Cole sentenced Jay Campbell to 40 years in prison May 2 after a jury of six men and six women convicted him of 23 charges, including running a continuing criminal enterprise, conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine, numerous charges of residential burglary, obtaining a controlled substance by fraud, theft by receiving, hindering prosecution and theft of services. End to end, his terms added up to 315 years, but with good behavior he can work off his 40-year term in 10 years.
The most sensational charge against Kelly Campbell—having sex with inmates in her husband’s custody—were dropped, but she was convicted of 26 crimes, including multiple counts of residential burglary and obtaining a controlled substance by theft.

The jury found that in case after case the Campbells would go to the homes of friends from church and the neighborhood and he would visit with them while she would excuse herself to the restroom and rummage for painkillers and other controlled substances, which she would steal.

At sentencing, Cole ruled that the Campbells could be free on an appeals bond, but changed his ruling a week later, leaving them unexpectedly in jail, perhaps for the duration of their sentences.

Their new lawyers are expected to appeal first Cole’s ruling on the appeal bond. Otherwise, the Campbells will remain in prison for the 18 months or so until the state Supreme Court rules on their appeal. Jay Campbell is currently being evaluated at the Diagnostic Unit at Pine Bluff and Kelly Campbell is locked up at the women’s McPherson Unit at Newport, a Correction Department spokesman said Tuesday. After their motions, Cole excused defense lawyers Patrick Benca and Mark Hampton from further representation of the Campbells for purposes of appeals.

The Lonoke County Prosecutor’s Office will not be involved in the Campbell’s appeal, according to Stuart Cearley, the chief deputy. That task falls to the state attorney general’s office. Cearley said Tuesday that no court dates have been set for the trials of former Lonoke Mayor Thomas Privett and former Lonoke police dispatcher Amy Staley.

Privett is charged with theft of services, a misdemeanor, for having Act 309 prison trustees assigned to the city hang his Christmas decorations and repair his home air conditioner.

Privett has never disputed the charge, saying he didn’t know it was improper. Staley is charged with sexual assault for allegedly having sexual relations with one of the inmates.