The court testimony of Fort Smith Police Captain Jarrard Copeland did not contain “false material statements,” and the perjury investigation against the officer is closed, according to letters filed Monday (March 21) by Circuit Judge James Cox and Sebastian County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Shue.
A perjury charge hung on if the testimony was a “critical element” in the hearing, according to a March 14 letter from Shue to Judge Cox.
Cox responded Monday by noting that Copeland’s testimony contained “no false statements.”
“Whether a false statement is material in a given fact situation is a question of the law. Not only do I not think the testimony of Captain Copeland was necessarily false, there were certainly no false material statements included in the testimony given at the August 29, 2014 hearing, particularly in light of his responses to the questions from the Court,” Cox noted in the letter.
Shue responded by noting that “without this essential element of the crime of Perjury,” the issue is concluded.
A more than 6-week long investigation into alleged perjury by Copeland wrapped up late last week when Sebastian County Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck turned over findings to Shue. Little Rock attorney Matt Campbell alleges that Copeland lied under oath on Aug. 29, 2014, as part of a hearing related to a whistleblower lawsuit by plaintiffs Don Paul Bales, Rick Entmeier and Wendall Sampson.
Campbell initially asked Shue to file charges against Copeland. In his request to Shue, Campbell said 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 Judge Cox, Copeland testified under oath that Campbell’s clients were not suspects in the investigation. After the August 2014 hearing, Cox ruled against the request made by Campbell.
On Jan. 27, Judge Cox, Hollenbeck and Shue met to discuss the matter. Hollenbeck told Talk Business & Politics that Judge Cox asked him to investigate. He said the judge “asked them to review the transcripts and interview those involved” and return a report to the judge who would make a decision. Sebastian County Sheriff’s Department Investigator Philip Pevehouse conducted what was called a “fact-finding” effort.
On March 16, Campbell sent an 8-page letter to Judge Cox to address the issue of “materiality” in the context of perjury.
Campbell argued that Arkansas law stipulates that perjury is committed when testimony “could effect” the outcome rather than being a material impact on the outcome. The letter included case law from Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, and Texas. Some of the case law, especially from federal courts, suggested the question of materiality be left up to a jury.
“Moreover, the statute makes clear that materiality is an element of the crime of perjury. Accordingly, under Gaudin, it would appear that whether the statements were material would be a question for the jury, not a question on which Mr. Shue could or should seek an advisory opinion from this Court,” Campbell wrote.
In the conclusion of his letter to Judge Cox, Campbell said Copeland’s statements did have an impact on the hearing outcome.
“Arkansas case law, as well as decisions by courts in myriad other jurisdictions, demonstrate that Capt. Copeland’s false statements were material within the meaning of the perjury statute, inasmuch as the statements had the potential to impact or influence decisions as to the motion for preliminary injunction as well as determinations of Capt. Copeland’s credibility.”