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Mixed verdicts in Arkansas drug-corruption case

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – A federal jury convicted a former Arkansas police officer Friday on extortion and drug charges linked to a sweeping investigation into corruption and drug trafficking in east Arkansas.

Former Helena-West Helena police officer Marlene Kalb was convicted of extortion and attempt to possess a controlled substance but was acquitted on a money-laundering charge. She pleaded not guilty to all charges and testified in her own defense Wednesday. Jurors had deliberated since Thursday.

Kalb was among dozens of people indicted last year in the investigation called “Operation Delta Blues.” Four former law enforcement officers pleaded guilty to various charges.

Police said Kalb twice accepted money to protect drug shipments.

Randy Coleman, head of the FBI in Arkansas, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that Kalb’s conviction was a bittersweet moment.

“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.”

Kalb’s attorney, John Wesley Hall, told the newspaper that he will file motions to vacate the convictions, saying there was 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.”

Kalb was taken into custody shortly after the verdicts were read. She’ll be sentenced at a later date.

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