Monday, September 25, 2006

TOP STORY>>Deer season won’t postpone trial

IN SHORT: Lonoke County prosecutor must show lawyers which incidents support criminal-enterprise charges, judge says.

Leader staff writer

Special Judge John Cole Thursday denied a motion to delay until after deer season a high-profile criminal trial at Lonoke, in effect telling a defense attorney “that dog won’t hunt.”

“But I sure do like the way you dress,” Cole told Bobby Junior Cox’s lawyer, John Wesley Hall. Hall, who contended that 21 percent of eligible Lonoke County jurors are hunters and might be either unavailable or unable to give the month-long case the attention it deserves, wore a deer-themed shirt under his sport coat, accessorized by hunter orange tie and pocket handkerchief.

“It was worth a shot,” Hall said.

“I haven’t missed opening day of deer season since 1967,” said Cole, pinch-hitting for Circuit Judge Lance Hanshaw, who has recused. “But sometimes people must give up pleasure they seek for duty to the community.”

Former Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell is the marquee name in this sprawling 78-count indictment that includes charges against his wife, Kelly Harrison Campbell, and bail bondsmen Cox and Larry Norwood.

She alleges that Campbell masterminded a continuing criminal organization or enterprise that stole drugs and money, influenced inmates with drugs and sexual favors, conspired to manufacture methamphetamines, burgled homes and beat and intimidated witnesses between October 2002 and December 2005.

The criminal-enterprise charges are especially important, because if the defendants were found guilty of those charges, sentences for some other convictions would be enhanced and the overriding charge would be punishable by the stiffest sentence.

In addition, former police department dispatcher Amy Staley has been charged with having sex with inmates and Lonoke Mayor Thomas Privett faces a single misdemeanor charge of theft of services for having Act 309 inmates fix his air conditioner and hang his Christmas lights. Each of them will be tried separately.

Campbell, Cox and Norwood are charged with conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine.

The Campbells are charged with theft of property, including drugs, jewelry and money, and Kelly Campbell is charged with having sex about two dozen times with inmates in her husband’s jail and elsewhere.

In order to establish an ongoing or continuous criminal enterprise, the state must show that at least three people must have been involved and that there must be at least two crimes of violence or for financial gain.

On a motion by Norwood’s lawyer, Jeff Rosenzweig, Cole ruled that the prosecution must be more specific about which incidents, out of 3,000 pages of interviews and evidence, support the criminal enterprise charges, who was involved in those incidents and what law was allegedly broken.

Prosecutor Lona McCastlain argued that all the pertinent facts were included in the disclosure, but Cole ordered her to provide attorneys with the specific information she alleges supports the criminal enterprise charge.

McCastlain didn’t charge Cox and Norwood with an incident in which they got into a Pulaski County motel room under false pretenses to find a bond jumper, but is she saying this supports the criminal enterprise charge, Rosenzweig asked.
“What’s the crime?” he asked.

“Aggravated robbery, battery and theft of property,” said Chief Deputy Prosecutor Stuart Cleary.

“We need that in writing,” Rosenzweig responded.

“His goal is to box the state in,” McCastlain said.

This was the first victory for defense attorneys.

Cole previously overruled motions to dismiss the criminal enterprise charges and also refused to sever the trials of the four defendants.

Cole had also asked that any motion for change of venue be heard Thursday, but no one pursued the issue. Pretrial hearings for the Nov. 8 trial are set for 9 a.m., Oct. 23 and 9 a.m. Nov. 2.