Leader Blues

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

TOP STORY >>Insufficient evidence: Jailer gets to go free

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

After being the butt of jokes and innuendo for more than a year for allegedly having sex with an Act 309 state prisoner while she was a dispatcher and jailer at Lonoke city jail in 2005, Amy Staley was acquitted Monday in a bench trial before Special Judge John Cole of Sheridan.

“I can’t determine that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” Cole said in a trial that included neither opening nor closing arguments and lasted less than two hours. “Someone is telling the truth and someone isn’t. I have no choice but to find her not guilty.”

Anthony Shane Scott, handcuffed, in ankle bracelets and wearing the Correction Department inmate whites, testified that he had sex three times with Staley during the spring of 2005, while she was a police department employee and he was an inmate in Lonoke.

Scott is the Act 309 Correction Department inmate whose alleged sexual trysts with Staley and with then-Police Chief Jay Campbell’s wife while in the Lonoke jail led to the investigation that eventually deposed a mayor, imprisoned the popular police chief and his wife and led to serious felony charges against a pair of bail bondsmen.

Act 309 inmates are state inmates screened and loaned to sheriffs and police chiefs as manpower while increasing the number of prison beds available to the state, but the inmate may not perform work for private individuals.

Both Jay Campbell and Thomas Privett, then mayor, admitted paying Act 309 inmates a stipend to do work at their homes.
Privett is expected to face trial next month for theft of services, a misdemeanor, in connection with that work. Lonoke voters turned him out of office last November over the incident.

Campbell was sentenced in April to 40 years in prison for running a criminal enterprise, conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine and numerous counts of theft by receiving and drug counts. Kelly Campbell was sentenced to 10 years for participating in an ongoing criminal enterprise, theft of property and illegal possession of drugs. Cole dismissed sex charges against her because technically it was not a crime for a civilian to have sex with an inmate.

Both Campbells are in prison, appealing their sentences. She is at the women’s McPherson Unit, and he is in a Missouri prison for his own safety. Scott testified Monday that he had sex three times with Staley in a bathroom before breaking off the relationship to pursue a sexual relationship with Kelly Campbell.

Staley’s attorney, Eric Kennedy of Des Arc, cross examined Scott, who admitted that the first times he was questioned he denied having sex with Staley. At a subsequent interview he said he had sex with her twice and at yet another interview, he said they had sex three times.

Staley testified that she had never had sex with Scott. There were no witnesses to a sex act between the two, although Staley’s former coworker Courtney Kocourek testified that he walked in on the pair in the jail kitchen when Staley had her arms around Scott’s neck in an embrace and had him pinned against the refrigerator. Kocourek is now a State Police trooper.
Staley said she stood on a box to retrieve her bowl from atop the refrigerator, fell, and Scott caught her.

“We are extremely happy,” said Kennedy. “I’m just glad she can move on with her life,” he said. “I felt like that’s what the outcome would be.”

“When you’re dealing with sex, and only two people know the truth—I knew this could happen,” said Prosecutor Lona McCastlain.

“The evidence was there, but she has a second chance,” McCastlain added.