Small Ark. town corruption probe nets chief, mayor, chief's wife


By DANIEL CONNOLLY
Associated Press Writer

LONOKE, Arkansas- The town's mayor was arrested in a corruption probe, its police chief is accused in a drug-making scheme, and the prosecutor says the chief's wife took prisoners from jail to have sex with them _ and more arrests could be coming.

It's a lot for an Arkansas town of fewer than 4,300 residents to stomach in one day.

"We've just got a tough time ahead of us right now," said Assistant Police Chief Sean O'Nale, who is serving as interim chief while Chief Jay Campbell is suspended with pay.

The chief and his wife, the mayor and two bail bondsmen were arrested Monday and freed on bail. Mayor Thomas Privett continued his normal duties Tuesday and called a special city council meeting for Wednesday evening to deal with personnel issues.

Campbell said he was wrongly accused, and lawyers for the others said their clients were innocent.

Prosecutor Lona McCastlain dismissed criticism that the investigation was politically motivated and said her work isn't done.

"This investigation is ongoing and the state has not ruled out that there may be additional charges filed and that there may be additional suspects," McCastlain said.

In Lonoke, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) east of Little Rock, just about everyone knows the defendants.

"The chief and his wife have been real good to my mother, they're neighbors over there. And they haven't been anything but nice," said real estate broker Charlie Knox.

The allegations paint a different picture.

Campbell and his wife, Kelly Harrison Campbell, allegedly stole antique jewelry from a home and pawned it. The chief also is accused with the bail bondsmen of taking part in a conspiracy to make methamphetamine and use it to frame someone.

Kelly Campbell faces escape-related charges for allegedly taking two inmates out of the jail to have sex with her at ballparks, the chief's office and a hotel. She also is charged with residential burglary, theft and taking prohibited items into a jail.

The mayor was charged with misdemeanor theft of services. A State Police affidavit says he used state prisoners to do work at his home, including fixing an air conditioner and hanging Christmas lights. Campbell also is alleged to have had prisoners work at his home.

Ralph Cloar of Little Rock, an attorney for the mayor, said he has known Privett for decades and called him a law-abiding citizen.

"I think when all the facts come out everyone will see that it's just a minor situation that some jury will have to determine even if it was misdemeanor criminal conduct," he said.

Privett's arraignment was scheduled for April 3. The others are to be arraigned March 13.

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