Leader Blues

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

TOP STORY >> New trial set in March for freed ex-chief

Jay Campbell (center) is escorted to court in pink handcuffs by Lonoke County Sheriff Jim Roberson (right) and his deputies on Monday in Lonoke.

Lonoke County Prosecutor Will Feland (left) reviews a transcript from Jay Campbell’s original trial with Special Prosecutor Jack McQuarry, who will assist Feland in the retrial of Campbell on burglary, fraud, drug and theft charges.

 Former Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell embraces a family member Monday after his release on bond.

Leader senior staff writer

Former Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell, freed Monday on $50,000 bond pending retrial next March on at least a dozen burglary-related crimes, traded his gray prison jumpsuit and pink handcuffs for casual civilian clothes and a windbreaker.

He left the Lonoke County Jail, apparently headed to Hot Springs to spend Christmas with his two children.

“I’m going to see my girls as fast as I can,” Campbell said.

He said his children were living with his mother-in-law in Hot Springs.

His wife and co-defendant, Kelly Harrison Campbell, is still locked up at the Hawkins Women’s Center at Wrightsville. Her appeal will be heard by the state Court of Appeals on Jan. 10. Her first parole eligibility may be midyear.

“I’m going to work to get her back and get my family back,” her husband said. “I don’t know what the future holds.”

On Nov. 5, the state Supreme Court overturned Campbell’s 2007 convictions on 23 charges, including running a continuing criminal enterprise, conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine and a bevy of burglary and drug-related charges, and remanded the case back to Lonoke County Circuit Court.

Campbell’s defense attorney, Patrick Benca, said the state was “overreaching” in its efforts to convict Campbell as the kingpin of an ongoing criminal enterprise.

The court also threw out all evidence collected at the Campbell home “as fruit of the poisonous tree,” Benca said. The search warrant did not establish reasonable cause and the court found that it should have been suppressed.

Campbell’s next hearing is Jan. 22 and pretrial motions are set for March 1, with his first trial currently set to begin March 2-4.

Lonoke County Prosecutor Will Feland told Circuit Judge Barbara Elmore on Monday that he would retry Campbell on at least 12 charges, including six counts of burglary, five charges of fraud and a charge of theft of property.

Other possible charges include conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine.

Feland said the evidence in the cases he’s prosecuting against Campbell is “totally different” and the trial will be much shorter.

For one thing, the continuing criminal-enterprise charge can’t be tried again, and the lengthy testimony by and about Kelly Campbell’s sexual liaisons with inmates won’t be introduced.

Feland told the judge he would break the charges up into at least two separate trials.

His predecessor, Lona McCastlain, prosecuted a sprawling case with more than 40 charges against the Campbells and still others against four other co-defendants.

“I’d like a full report,” Elmore told Feland, including any additional charges he would prosecute Campbell on.

“It’s an exhaustive record,” said Feland.

The case transcript and evidence is spread across an attic floor in the courthouse.

Feland had asked that Campbell’s bond be set at $150,000, saying he had no ties in the area and was unemployed and perhaps unemployable.

Benca said Campbell appeared at every court date, even after he was convicted, while secured on a $50,000 bond during the original trial.

Elmore, who replaced Judge Lance Hanshaw on the bench, said she and Circuit Judge Philip Whiteaker had drawn up a bond schedule, and according to that schedule, Campbell’s bond would be $50,000.

Benca was Campbell’s attorney during the nearly two-month trial that concluded in April 2007.

Also back for the retrial will be Benca’s aide, Kara Binz.

Feland will be assisted by his chief deputy, Bart Dickinson, and by special prosecutor Jack McQuarry. McQuarry served as a special prosecutor in the first trial, aiding then-prosecutor McCastlain.

Three of those co-defendants were in court Monday morning. They were former Lonoke Mayor Thomas Privett and bail bondsmen Bobby Junior Cox and Larry Norwood.

Cox posted Campbell’s bond Monday, according to Sheriff Jim Roberson.

Friends and some family members were at the hearing.

Campbell, who was generous with his hugs, hand shakes and appreciation of the state Supreme Court, was less than charitable when discussing McCastlain and her prosecution.

He said her prosecution of him was commingled with her aspirations for higher office.

“When you mix politics and justice, you get nothing but trouble,” he said.

He said the deck was stacked against him and that not even (deceased, former O.J. Simpson lawyer) Johnny Cochran could have won the case.

Cabot Democrat Tim Blair challenged McCastlain for the prosecutor’s office, and she held on to her seat by 79 votes.