TOP STORY >>No bond for pair, will stay in prison
By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer
After a week in prison, former Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell and his wife Kelly thought they’d be freed on bond and back home in Lonoke Tuesday afternoon, reunited with their three children.
Instead, they were locked in Lonoke County Sheriff’s Office patrol cars and transported back to prison to continue serving lengthy prison terms. In their wake, they left stunned and sobbing relatives in the parking lot of the Cabot City Annex.
The sudden change in their expectations occurred when Special Judge John Cole vacated his own April 24 ruling that the Campbells were eligible to be free on appeals bonds—he on a $200,000 bond, she on a $100,000 bond.
Getting into the patrol car, Jay Campbell said he couldn’t go back to prison, so for security purposes, a second deputy rode in the car. He arrived back at the Corrections Department without incident.
Jay Campbell is assigned to the Diagnostic Unit at Pine Bluff, and she’s at the McPherson Unit at Newport.
An unsuspecting Kelly Campbell had entered the courtroom wearing a big smile, handcuffs and bright prison whites.
But the smile vanished from her face when Cole ruled that he had been in error last week when considering only the flight risk while determining that the Campbells could be freed on bond. Tuesday he said he was not convinced they didn’t pose other sorts of risks.
Defense attorneys have speculated that it would take 18 months to get the appeal before the state Supreme Court—seven months alone for the court recorder to transcribe the two-month-long trial.
Until 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, the Campbells had expected to be free during that year and a half.
Jay Campbell is sentenced to a 40-year term for running an ongoing criminal enterprise, conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine and 21 other charges including several residential burglaries and several counts of receiving of a controlled substance by fraud.
Unless his case is overturned on appeal, he’ll serve at least 10 years in the state Correction Department.
Kelly Campbell is sentenced to 20 years for 26 convictions including several residential burglaries and several charges of receiving a controlled substance by theft. With good behavior, she could be out in about three years and four months.
Cole informed Lonoke County Prosecutor Lona McCastlain and defense lawyers Patrick Benca and Mark Hampton at 2 p.m. Monday that he would not allow the Campbells to be freed on bond, but neither defendant knew that until arriving at the temporary circuit courtroom in Cabot.
“I’m happy,” said McCastlain. “I think the people will be pleased that justice was served and the appeal bond denied.”
Both Campbells tested positive for drugs in urinalysis, McCastlain told the court, but since Cole ruled they were not eligible for bond under Rule Six of the Arkansas Code, she did not call the witnesses to establish that the couple had drugs in their system.
McCastlain said Jay Campbell tested positive for hydrocodone and that Kelly’s urine revealed the presence of opiates, cocaine and methamphetamine.
Benca told the court that his client, Jay Campbell, had a prescription for the drug in his system.
In the emotional aftermath of Cole’s ruling, Kelly Campbell glared at McCastlain.
McCastlain dismissed her behavior later, saying it was a reasonable reaction to the sudden change in expectations and loss of liberty.
Cole also denied Benca and Hampton’s challenge of his appeal-bond ruling and their motions for mistrials and retrials.
Benca argued that since Kelly Campbell was found innocent of participating in a continuing criminal enterprise with her husband, that Jay Campbell’s guilty verdict on that count must be set aside.
Cole denied his motion.
He did relieve both attorneys of the responsibility of further defending their clients during the appeals process and also ruled that both Campbells were indigent and that he would appoint them new lawyers.
Benca said it was probable that new lawyers for the Campbells would challenge Cole’s ruling on the appeals bond within the next 30 days.
The indigency ruling also meant they would not have to pay the estimated $70,000 to have the trial notes transcribed.
Jay Campbell’s easy smile, decreasingly evident over the past few court appearances, surfaced only briefly for his mother. Otherwise, he sat in quiet concern.
Waiting for the hearing to begin, the gallery behind the prosecutors’ table was chatty and festive. It included at least one victim of the Campbells, one jury member and some of McCastlain’s staff.
In stark contrast, across the aisle and behind the defendants and their attorneys, somber family members and a former co-defendant sat quietly, some crying and hugging. The families knew what Jay and Kelly Campbell did not—that they were headed back to prison—but relatives couldn’t reach them in prison.
“Until (new inmates) have an account and a phone list, they don’t have phone privileges,” according to George Brewer, a Correction Department spokesman. “We don’t set that up during intake.”
One former juror, who last week complained in tears to McCastlain that the system didn’t work and that the jury had expected the Campbells to go straight to jail two weeks ago, when they were convicted, was all smiles Tuesday when the judge ruled the Campbells were not eligible for bond.
Speaking for the first time to the press on the condition of anonymity, the woman said the jurors were appalled by Campbell’s breach of trust and abuse of his position.
That’s why they gave the maximum penalty on almost every count. But, she said, the Campbells were young enough to learn and perhaps earn redemption, so they recommended the judge run the sentences concurrently.
Also happy to see Jay Campbell in prison was Linda Ives, who has long held that he and another lawman killed her son Kevin and another teenaged boy 20 years ago and left their bodies on a Saline County railroad track, where they were struck by a train.
She said Campbell’s high-placed friends were no longer able to protect him. “None of this is new,” she said Tuesday.
“It’s not fair. She didn’t get to come home today,” said Tammy Crow, Kelly Campbell’s sister. “We’ve had no contact with her.”
Crow is the primary custodian of the Campbells’ three children while their parents are in prison.
Crow, her mother Caroline Hoagland, and two other sisters huddled and hugged after Kelly Campbell was driven off.
“We’re a strong, close family and we’ll get through this,” she said. “We’re trying to be strong for Kelly and the children,” she said.
Benca said Campbell needed a new attorney for the appeal, someone who wasn’t so close to the case and someone who could argue, if necessary, that Benca did a poor job of representing the former chief.
Hampton asked to be replaced because he’s not an appeals attorney.
“I have approved (Pulaski County Prosecutor) Larry Jegley as (Larry) Norwood’s special prosecutor,” Cole said in a related matter. Norwood, a bail bondsman, was at one time a codefendant in the Campbell case and is charged with conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine with Jay Campbell and fellow bail bondsman Bobby Junior Cox.
There was testimony in the Campbell trial that Cox, then a codefendant, solicited Ron “Bear” Tyler to kill McCastlain and also witness Ryan Adams, the meth cook.
While currently neither Cox nor Norwood is charged with soliciting capital murder, Jegley instead of McCastlain will handle their charges. McCastlain is an alleged intended victim.
Jegley could not be reached for comment Tuesday and it was uncertain whether the two bail bondsmen would be tried together, and also whether or not he expected to charge one or both Cox and Norwood with solicitation of capital murder charges.
Cole will be the judge not only for charges against Cox and Norwood, but for former dispatcher Amy Staley’s charge of having sex with inmates and former Lonoke Mayor Thomas Privett’s misdemeanor theft-of-services trial for having Act 309 inmates hang his Christmas decorations and repair an air conditioner at his home.