Leader Blues

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

TOP STORY >>Ex-Lonoke mayor in no-contest plea

By JOHN HOFHEIMER
Leader senior staff writer

Former Lonoke Mayor Thomas Privett never denied that he had two state work-release inmates hang his Christmas decorations or fix his air conditioner, so following his “no-contest” plea to a count of theft of services Monday, Circuit Judge John Cole fined him $300, charged him $150 in court costs and sentenced him to one year unsupervised probation.

Thus ends the saga of a local official whose bad judgment made him a footnote in the sprawling, lurid prosecution featuring a police chief, his wife, a jailer and two bail bondsmen on a bevy of conspiracy, theft and drug charges.

Privett has said he paid the two inmates a small stipend and thought the work fell under the types of things they could do to earn spending money.

Act 309 inmates are state prison ers—trustees—on loan to counties or cities to do work like cooking at the jail or cleaning up trash.

“I’m pleased that this case is finally resolved and look forward to the trial of the two remaining defendants, (Bobby Junior) Cox and (Larry) Norwood,” said Lonoke County Prosecutor Lona McCastlain. “It will only be then that the citizens of the city of Lonoke will have closure.”

She said she expected the court to set a trial date this week for Cox and Norwood, two bail bondsmen charged with conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine.

Cox is also charged with being a member of an ongoing criminal enterprise.

“I’m glad to have it behind me,” Privett said Monday, but said he had mixed emotions.

He said the charge against him, although a misdemeanor, contributed to his being turned out of office after his second term.
“I doubt it,” he said when asked if he would run of office again. He said he’d continue to work in real estate and run his hardware store, he said.

Charges against Privett and against former Lonoke Jailer Amy Staley were lumped with charges against former Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell, his wife Kelly Harrison Campbell, and with bail bondsmen Bobby Cox and Larry Norwood.

Cole found Staley not guilty in a bench trial earlier this year of having sex with an inmate.

Like Privett, Campbell was charged with improper use of Act 309 inmates, but the case against the Campbells and the bail bondsmen were much larger.

Campbell was sentenced to 40 years in prison for running an on-going criminal enterprise, conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine and 21 other charges including several residential burglaries and several counts receiving of a controlled substance by fraud. He’s in a Texas prison for his own safety, appealing his convictions.

His wife, Kelly, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for participating in an ongoing criminal enterprise, several theft and drug related counts and furnishing contraband to inmates, two of whom testified that they had sexual relations with her.

Cox and Norwood are charged with conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine and Cox is charged with participating in Campbell’s ongoing criminal enterprise.

There was testimony in the Campbell trial that Cox, then a codefendant, solicited Ron “Bear” Tyler to kill McCastlain and witness Ryan Adams, a meth cook. While currently neither Cox nor Norwood is charged with soliciting capital murder, Jegley instead of McCastlain will handle their charges.