Attorney alleges Fort Smith police tried to infect his computer

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 263 views 

Little Rock attorney Matt Campbell is alleging in a lawsuit that an officer with the Fort Smith Police Department attempted to place “malicious software” on his law office computer. Campbell is the attorney representing former Fort Smith police officer Don Paul Bales in his lawsuit against the police department.

Bales was fired in October 2014 by the Fort Smith Police Department. He was accused of providing inside information about a police matter to Campbell, and lying in correspondence to a supervisor and to City Administrator Ray Gosack. His firing was upheld by the Fort Smith Civil Service Commission.

Bales is also the leader of Take Back the Fort, a group attempting to raise enough signatures to call for an election changing the form of government in Fort Smith. The group launched the effort in late January, but has since Feb. 13 been unwilling to provide an update on the signature-gathering process.

In a “Motion for Sanctions” action filed April 10, Campbell alleges that certain members of the FSPD “engaged in intentional spoliation of evidence,” provided emails with “improper redactions” and, in responding to a documents request, supplied Campbell with an external hard drive that “contained malicious software designed to hack into Plaintiffs’ counsel’s computer, rendering the hard drive unsafe for Plaintiffs’ use.”

In the filing with the Circuit Court of Sebastian County, Campbell is asking for sanctions against the defendants, to include criminal contempt of court and entering a default judgment in favor of Bales.

The filing by Campbell includes an affidavit from Geoff Mueller, manager of information security at the Lower Colorado River Authority. Mueller said he found four “Trojans” designed to open Campbell’s computer up to outside control. The Trojans included a password stealer, malicious software installer and “control and command of infected computer,” according to Mueller’s report. Mueller said is review of the hard drive and its contents indicated that the bad software “were not already on the external hard drive that was sent to Mr. Campbell, and were more likely placed in that folder intentionally with the goal of taking command of Mr. Campbell’s computer while also stealing passwords to his accounts.”

Fort Smith Police Chief Kevin Lindsey told The City Wire he had no comment on the allegation and would “let the courts speak on the matter.”

Campbell provided this statement to The City Wire: “This whole thing is alarming, not only because they tried to hack my computer, but also because of what it means big picture. The Fort Smith Police Department – or at least certain people within the FSPD – have demonstrated that they will act criminally if they think it will allow them to get even with someone they don't like. Rather than let the underlying litigation play out properly in court, they opted to commit a federal crime, apparently in the hopes that their criminal acts would give them information that they couldn't get legally.

“I strongly believe that the overwhelming majority of officers at the FSPD are good. Yet, if the person or persons responsible for this aren't investigated, arrested, and prosecuted, the leadership of the department is basically telling all of the good cops that they don't care if the citizens of Fort Smith trust the department as a whole. Sadly, based on past practices, that's exactly what I expect will happen.”

Campbell notified Sebastian County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Shue of the alleged hacking attempt, and Shue sent a letter to the Arkansas State Police asking them to investigate. The ASP declined, saying the matter appears “limited to misdemeanor violations which do not rise to a threshold” for a special investigation. In his Oct. 1, 2014 letter to Campbell, Shue said the matter could also be sent to the office of Conner Eldridge, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas.