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Delta Blues officer sentenced to 2.5 years

By ArkansasOnline

This article was originally published April 11, 2013 at 6:30 a.m. Updated April 11, 2013 at 10:47 a.m.

A former police officer convicted of charges tied to a broad investigation into corruption and drug trafficking in eastern Arkansas has been sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison.

Marlene Kalb, a former Helena-West Helena officer charged in the Operation Delta Blues case, was convicted in a federal trial in December of extortion and attempt to possess a controlled substance.

Kalb was taken into custody after the verdicts were read, but returned to court Thursday for the sentencing hearing before U.S. District Judge James Moody.

Under federal law, Kalb faced up to 20 years in prison on each charge. After ruling on various objections during the morning hearing, Moody said federal sentencing guidelines recommended a 27 to 33 month sentence.

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.

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

She was one of five law enforcement officers and more than 70 people overall indicted in 2011 in the federal probe into drug trafficking centered in Helena but extending into neighboring states.

The four other officers were sentenced to prison after pleading guilty.

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