Wednesday, April 11, 2007

TOP STORY >>Closing remarks set for Thursday

Leader senior staff writer

Seven weeks of testimony ended Tuesday, with closing arguments slated for Thursday in the sprawling drug, sex, theft and corruption trial of former Lonoke Police Chief Jay Campbell and his wife Kelly Campbell.

Actually, despite several days of testimony, recorded telephone calls and several witnesses in support of the allegation that Kelly Campbell had sex repeatedly with two Act 309 prison trustees at Lonoke, Special Judge John Cole dropped the sex charges when the prosecution ended its case last week. There is no current law against a civilian having sex with an inmate, and Lonoke County Prosecutor Lona McCastlain charged the offense was supplying contraband.

McCastlain has charged the Campbells with participating in a continuing criminal enterprise, with Jay Campbell the alleged kingpin and his wife and bail bondsman Bobby Junior Cox as members of the enterprise. Jay Campbell, Cox and another bail bondsman, Larry Norwood, are also charged with conspiring to manufacture methamphetamine.

Kelly Campbell did not take the stand in her own behalf, but Jay Campbell testified that he didn’t believe his wife stole drugs, and despite hours of testimony, tapes and photographs of her embracing an inmate or sitting on an inmate’s lap, his hand on her rear, he didn’t believe she had had sex with him.

“I’m trying to get my family back in order,” said Campbell. “I’ve lost my job and I’m trying to make life easier for my children.”

Campbell testified Monday that he believed former Lonoke policeman Brandon Hampton twisted his testimony against his former chief because Hampton had been caught viewing pornography on the police computer late at night while on duty.
On Tuesday, Special Judge John Cole sent current Lonoke Police Chief Mike Williams back to Lonoke from the Cabot courtroom to bring a report and video tape intended to bolster Campbell’s charge that Hampton watched pornography on the job, was being investigated at the time he resigned and had an axe to grind with his chief.

Campbell spent about 12 hours on the stand Friday and Monday, where Patrick Benca, his lawyer, led him one-by-one through the charges against him.

Without further questioning by Benca, Campbell would give an explanation for each of the charges, often disputing testimony of prosecution witnesses.

He also was aggressively cross-examined by Chief Deputy Prosecutor Stuart Cearley. At times, both Cearley and Campbell spoke with an edge to his voice.

“I just want to be clear about this,” Cearley said several times, to which Campbell unfailingly responded, “I want you to be clear, sir.”

“I’ve been waiting a year and a half to tell my side of the story,” Jay Campbell said after testimony wrapped up.

The Campbells are each charged with about a dozen thefts of prescription medications, with Jay alleged to have visited with friends and neighbors while Kelly rummaged through medicine cabinets, kitchen cabinets and bedside tables for narcotics like hydrocodone.

Cox was being tried with the Campbells until about 10 days ago, when prosecution witness Ron “Bear” Tyler testified that the bail bondsman solicited him to kill McCastlain, witness and meth cook Ron Adams and to burn down the Lonoke County Courthouse and McCastlain’s home.

Cox’s attorney, John Wesley Hall, asked for and was granted a mistrial after that testimony, which was not in the presence of the jury.

Norwood’s trial already had severed from the others because he was not charged as a member of the continuing criminal enterprise. Former Pulaski County Sheriff Carroll Gravett testified Monday that Jay Campbell was an exemplary deputy when he worked for him. He said he promoted Campbell.

“If I was still (sheriff) he’d probably be chief deputy by now,” Gravett said. But the prosecution countered in rebuttal Tuesday by calling recently retired Pulaski County Sheriff Randy Johnson.

Johnson testified that he had fired Jay Campbell for violating several policies, including lack of respect for superiors and subordinates, failing to give a full day’s work for a full day’s pay and failure to conduct himself in a moral and ethical way.
Regarding charges that he improperly withdrew about $250 from the jail commissary fund, Campbell responded that he had borrowed money from the fund’s custodian, head dispatcher Lisa Marty, and had returned it.

Marty, called in rebuttal Tuesday, said she never loaned the chief money, that it came from the commissary fund and that he never paid it back.

Cox’s attorney, Hall, said Tuesday that jury instruction for the criminal enterprise charge alone could run dozens of pages.
Judge Cole is not done when this case is completed. He is also assigned to try the meth conspiracy cases against Cox and Norwood, which may include solicitation of murder, the state Police are investigating; of former Lonoke Mayor Thomas Privett, who is charged with a misdemeanor count of theft of services for work done by the Act 309 inmates and also of former dispatcher Amy Staley, who allegedly had sex with an inmate.