The long-running legal battles between Little Rock attorney Matt Campbell and the Fort Smith Police Department took another turn Wednesday (Jan. 20) when Campbell asked Sebastian County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Shue to file perjury charges against Fort Smith Police Captain Jarrard Copeland.
Copeland’s alleged perjury happened Aug. 29, 2014, as part of a hearing related to a whistleblower lawsuit by plaintiffs Don Paul Bales, Rick Entmeier and Wendall Sampson. The three police officers have maintained they were fired or disciplined as a result of trying to point out illegal behavior within the FSPD.
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. After a two-day hearing held by the Fort Smith Civil Service Commission in November 2014, the five-member commission upheld the disciplinary actions of Lindsey related to Sampson, Bales and Entmeier.
Campbell also is handling a federal discrimination/retaliation lawsuit on behalf of Sampson. The suit, filed Nov. 30 against the Fort Smith Police Department (FSPD), noted that the department has not promoted a black officer since 1988 and has not hired a black officer since 1995. Sampson is African American, and the lawsuit alleges discrimination in employment and promotion. For his client, Campbell “seeks full back pay as the result of the discriminatory failure to promote Plaintiff and his subsequent demotion/transfer, …”
In his recent request to Shue, Campbell noted that FSPD documents show that Copeland knew Bales, Entmeier and Sampson were suspects in the internal investigation. The fact is important because the status of a suspect in an investigation alters the process – essentially impacts the rights of the officer – by which an officer is treated. In the August hearing before Circuit Judge James Cox, Copeland testified under oath that Campbell’s clients were not suspects in the investigation.
The transcript of the testimony, provided by Campbell, shows that Judge Cox summarized the point with Copeland.
Judge Cox: So to clarify one thing. You said, well, “nobody said anybody did anything.” You just got a complaint or two complaints where something was done these officers were concerned about. They didn’t say who did it.
Campbell said Copeland’s testimony goes against what the internal police documents show.
“As explained in the enclosed affidavit and supporting documentation, Fort Smith Police Department Captain Jarrard Copeland lied under oath in front of Judge James O. Cox on August 29, 2014. His false testimony was in regard to a material fact that was integral in the court reaching its decision. Accordingly, all of the elements of perjury, as defined in Ark. Code Ann. § 5-53-102(a) appear to have been met,” Campbell noted in his letter.
In his request, Campbell also pointed to a recent FSPD matter in which Shue became involved.
“Both nationally and locally, public trust in the police is being eroded by the perception that police officers frequently get away with behavior for which regular citizens would face criminal charges. However, after seeing the effort you and your office put into the Bruce Fletcher investigation, I know that you take allegations of criminal conduct by police officers seriously,” Campbell noted.
Shue’s office issued an arrest warrant for Fort Smith Police officer Bruce Fletcher in October on charges of sexual solicitation. Fletcher resigned from the FSPD after the arrest.
Shue told Talk Business & Politics he is in Little Rock and will return to his office Monday.
“I will review it (Campbell’s request) on Monday and then make a decision,” Shue said.