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Kalb found guilty on drug, extortion charges

By Gavin Lesnick

This article was originally published December 14, 2012 at 11:33 a.m. Updated December 14, 2012 at 1:10 p.m.

Kalb convicted on drug, extortion counts

The only police officer of five indicted last year in the Operation Delta Blues investigation into corruption and drug trafficking in eastern Arkansas was convicted Friday on drug and extortion charges. (By Gavin Lesnick)
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— A former police officer charged in a broad investigation into corruption and drug trafficking in eastern Arkansas has been found guilty of extortion and attempt to possess a controlled substance.

After returning Friday for a second day of deliberations, the jury in the trial of former Helena-West Helena police officer Marlene Kalb came back to the courtroom about 11:15 a.m. with its verdicts.

Kalb was taken into custody shortly after U.S. District Judge James Moody read the verdicts.

Randy Coleman, head of the FBI in Arkansas, afterward called it a bittersweet moment in the "landmark case" dubbed Operation Delta Blues.

"It's bitter in the fact that yet another sworn law enforcement officer, the fifth in this case, has been convicted of misusing her position in exchange for a couple payments worth $500," Coleman said. "It's sweet in that it shows what we can do as a team in addressing public corruption, law enforcement corruption, violent gang and drug activity."

Although Kalb was convicted of two counts each of extortion and attempted drug possession, the jury found her innocent of two counts of money laundering.

Kalb's attorney, John Wesley Hall, said afterward that he intends to file motions to vacate the convictions because of insufficient evidence.

"I think the money laundering acquittal is inconsistent with the extortion conviction because they depend on the same facts, the exact same facts," he said. "... It kind of shows an inconsistency. But jury verdicts are allowed to be inconsistent."

Christopher Thyer, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, said the Delta Blues investigation is "continuing and ongoing." He said he believes corruption in the area is improving.

"You probably have to ask the people that live there and do business there on a daily basis," he said when asked of the state of the Delta today. "I can tell you from my perspective, I think things are better from where we got involved and I think they will continue to get better. Are they where they need to be? Probably not, but we are working on that."

Kalb was one of five law enforcement officers and more than 70 people overall indicted last year in the federal probe into drug trafficking centered in Helena but extending into neighboring states.

Prosecutors said Kalb on two occasions accepted cash after escorting a felon through Helena while he transported what she believed to be a load of cocaine. The felon was working undercover as an informant for the FBI and police recorded conversations between him and Kalb before and after the escorts.

Those recordings, along with surveillance footage and images, were presented to the jury during the four-day trial before U.S. District Court James Moody in Little Rock.

Four other officers indicted last year have been sentenced to prison after pleading guilty. Trial is pending for a sixth, a probation officer indicted in September.

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Displaying 1 - 3 of 3 total comments

gjo1957 says... December 14, 2012 at 1:27 p.m.

Kalb sold her badge for $1000. Pretty cheap price for her badge and her freedom. I hope she enjoys prison.

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mandasman71749 says... December 14, 2012 at 3:42 p.m.

WHAT???? PRISON TIME???? FOR A CONVICTED POLITICAL OFFICIAL????? HECK NO!!!!! WHEN? WHERE? NOT IN THE STATE OF ARKANSAS! MUCH LESS THE 50 UNITED STATES! THAT IS TOTALLY NOT TRUE!!! THE MOST SHE WILL GET WILL BE 30-60 DAYS IN THE COUNTY JAIL, OR, HOME CURFEW!!! OUR JUDICIAL SYSTEM WON'T GO FOR ANYTHING MORE THAN THAT!!! WATCH AND SEE WHAT I SAY!

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multistrada08 says... December 17, 2012 at 11:02 a.m.

I think this just goes to show how the "war on drugs" like all wars of morality leads to corruption. I cannot imagine that any of these officers who are likely good descent people, would have taken any amount of money if the crime had been rape, murder, or theft. But drugs, a victim less crime, it is easy to imagine how easily this type of crime can be justified. The DEA’s best estimates put the The Mexican drug cartels profits at just over 100 billion dollars in 2012. If the average cost of a bribe is 1000 dollars that is enough to buy 100 million police officers, more than currently serve in Canada, the US, and Mexico combined. We have spent 6 trillion dollars on the war on drugs since 1970, or about 18,000 dollars for every man woman and child in the US. We have sacrificed our rights of protection against unreasonable searches and seizures since now if a dog led by a police officer pees on your tire they have probable cause to search your vehicle. If you are carrying cash the police can take it and you have to prove where it came from. We are selling our souls and wasting our treasure on a war whose focus is to prevent a “FREE” people of ingesting substances that society finds distasteful.

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