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Jury begins deliberations in 'Delta Blues' trial of ex-officer

By Gavin Lesnick

This article was published December 13, 2012 at 3:12 p.m.

— The jury has begun deliberations in the trial of a former police officer arrested in a broad investigation into drug trafficking and corruption in eastern Arkansas.

Marlene Kalb, a former Helena-West Helena Police Department sergeant, is one of six law enforcement officers and more than 70 people overall indicted in Operation Delta Blues.

Kalb faces charges including extortion and money laundering on accusations she twice escorted a felon through Helena while on duty as he drove with what she believed was a shipment of cocaine. The felon was actually working as an FBI informant.

The jury began its deliberations shortly before 3 p.m. on the fourth day of Kalb's trial before U.S. District Court Judge James Moody. The panel of eight women and four men exited the room after a little less than two hours of closing arguments from the two sides.

Assistant U.S. Prosecuting Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas Julie Peters played audio of conversations between Kalb and the informant, Cornelius Coleman, recorded by investigators before and after the escorts. Prosecutors say Kalb accepted cash from Coleman on both occasions.

"It's really sad, but there are good cops and there are dirty cops," Peters said. "And the evidence has shown that Marlene Kalb was a dirty cop."

Defense attorney John Wesley Hall asked the jury to consider whether to trust Coleman, who he called a career drug trafficker with multiple criminal convictions.

He went through the elements of proof required for each count and stressed that the government's case was lacking on each one. And he said even if the jury found all the elements for a guilty verdict were met, it should throw the case out because it qualifies as entrapment.

"You cannot convict her on what you've seen," Hall said. "Every element of every crime has not been proven."

Kalb is the only one of five law enforcement officers indicted last year in the case who did not plead guilty in exchange for a prison sentence. A sixth law enforcement officer, probation officer Roxanne Davis, was arrested in September. Her trial is pending.

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