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Trial under way for officer in Delta Blues case

By Gavin Lesnick

This article was originally published December 10, 2012 at 6:43 a.m. Updated December 10, 2012 at 9:54 a.m.

— Jury selection has started in the trial for the only police officer not to plead guilty among five indicted last year in a broad federal investigation into corruption and drug dealing in eastern Arkansas.

Former Helena-West Helena police Sgt. Marlene Kalb faces two counts of extortion, three counts of attempted possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance and two counts of money laundering.

Her trial before U.S. District Judge Judge James Moody began shortly after 9:15 a.m. when several dozen prospective jurors filed into the courtroom. Moody reviewed the allegations against Kalb, made sure no one in the group knew or was related to her and then divided the jurors by those who had heard of the Delta Blues investigation and those who hadn't.

About 30 jurors said they had read or seen some news coverage of the case. Moody then returned to his chambers, where those jurors were brought in in small groups to be questioned further.

Kalb, one of more than 70 defendants indicated in Operation Delta Blues, is accused of escorting an informant who was posing as a drug trafficker through Helena while on duty. Prosecutors say a series of recordings prove Kalb accepted cash in exchange for offering the protection.

The other four officers in the initial Delta Blues indictment have all pleaded guilty. A sixth law enforcement officer, probation officer Roxanne Davis, was arrested in September. Her trial is pending.

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