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Total paid to felon in 'Delta Blues' case to eclipse $50,000

By Gavin Lesnick

This article was published December 11, 2012 at 10:51 a.m.

— A convicted felon who worked as an informant for authorities during a broad investigation into drug trafficking and corruption in eastern Arkansas will receive a total of more than $50,000 for his involvement and expenses, an FBI agent testified Tuesday.

The informant, Cornelius Coleman, has already been paid $30,000, including $5,000 for moving expenses, and will receive another $22,166 for additional moving and living expenses after he testifies, FBI Special Agent Ward Seale said.

Seale was testifying on the second day of the Marlene Kalb trial in U.S. District Court. Kalb, a former sergeant on the Helena-West Helena Police Department, is one of six law enforcement officers indicted in the Operation Delta Blues investigation. Four others have already pleaded guilty, but Kalb has maintained her innocence on money laundering and extortion charges.

Defense attorney John Wesley Hall used his cross examination of Seale to focus on the payments to Coleman, who Seale acknowledged has a lengthy criminal record including an arrest for forgery that came during his undercover work in the Delta Blues case.

Seale said Coleman was initially paid $25,000 in three installments in exchange for his undercover operations, which included posing as a drug trafficker and seeking police escorts through Helena.

Seale called the $27,166 in moving expenses "reasonable and appropriate" and said it covers rent, deposits and six months of living expenses, among other items. And while he acknowledged there is no reason to believe Kalb would seek to harm Coleman, he said there are indications others would after learning how he cooperated with authorities.

"After what's been discussed at this trial, when it gets out, he will not be safe" in Helena, Seale said.

Coleman is expected to take the stand later Tuesday.

Jurors on Tuesday also heard from Seale as he described aerial video footage that he said showed Coleman's truck being escorted by Kalb's police vehicle through Helena in September 2011.

Prosecutors said the jury would later hear audio recordings made before, during and after the escort.

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