Leader Blues

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

FROM THE PUBLISHER >>County too poor for sick inmates

Beebe police recently arrested James E. (Big Ed) Fuller for selling crack cocaine out of his apartment.

They found 63 packets of cocaine in his shirt pocket — they don’t call him Big Ed for nothing — and he was taken to the White County Jail, but they soon released him without bond on account of his poor health, even though he has a long criminal record.

When police arrested Big Ed, who’s 58, they could smell a strange odor coming from his legs, where they found maggots eating into his flesh. The jailers decided to rush him to the hospital, where doctors treated his infection, which may have been drug-related.

Big Ed may be an accused drug dealer, but he qualifies for Medicaid. The federal government is sometimes generous to a fault, but once you’re in jail, your benefits are cut off and it’s up to the county or the state to pay your medical bills.

Fuller is formerly of Jacksonville, and maybe Pulaski County could have afforded medical treatment for him if he’d been arrested there, but White County has even less money than Pulaski County.

His medical bills could run into thousands of dollars, which White County couldn’t pay back even in installments.

Afraid of mounting medical bills, the White County prosecutor’s office had him released on his own recognizance since he’s not considered a flight risk. Big Ed has a court appearance on Tuesday, and because of his criminal background and multiple drug charges, he faces 10-80 years and possibly life in prison.

Several other Fuller clan members have also been arrested on drug charges.

Beebe Police Chief Wayne Ballew hopes breaking up the alleged drug ring would help clean up his town.

But he wasn’t too pleased that Big Ed got out of jail without bond. He said he and Mayor Mike Robertson are working hard to put dealers behind bars, but it doesn’t help when they get an easy pass from jail.

“I wasn’t aware the county would have to take responsibility for him financially,” Ballew told us, referring to Fuller’s health problems. Ballew says Big Ed’s in pretty bad shape. “His leg is so bad, he could be looking at amputation,” the chief said.
Still, Ballew has little sympathy for Big Ed.

“He’s one of the major drug dealers in Beebe,” he insisted.

“The drug problem is really bad in Beebe,” he said. “They’re doing it so openly, they think they can get away with it.”

“We’re working hard to solve the drug problem in Beebe,” Ballew continued. “It’s the biggest concern of people in Beebe.”
Once Fuller’s convicted, the state prison system will have the funds to pay all of his medical bills. Till then, the chief has this warning for drug dealers:

Ballew said, “We’ll do everything to arrest them and put them in the penitentiary” — where a competent medical staff should attend to all their medical problems.