THIRD POLICE OFFICER PLEADS GUILTY IN OPERATION DELTA BLUES
Little Rock - Christopher R. Thyer, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, announced today that former Helena-West Helena Police Department Officer Herman Eaton, a defendant in Operation Delta Blues, entered a plea of guilty before U.S. District Court Judge J. Leon Holmes in Case No. 4:11CR00213-01 JLH.
Herman Eaton entered a plea of guilty to attempted interference with commerce by means of extortion ("Hobbs Act") as set forth in Count Three of the Indictment, and money laundering as set forth in Count Nine of the Indictment. The United States dismissed the remaining counts against the defendant (Counts One, Two, Four, Five, Six, Seven and Eight).
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11(c)(1)(C), if the Court accepts the plea agreement after reviewing a Presentence Report prepared by the United States Probation Office, the plea agreement calls for the court to impose an agreed 16 month sentence. An attempted violation of the Hobbs Act carries a possible punishment of not more than 20 years imprisonment, not more than 5 years supervised release, and up to a $250,000 fine. Money laundering carries a possible punishment of not more than 20 years imprisonment, not more than 5 years supervised release, and up to a $250,000 fine.
As part of his plea agreement, during the change of plea hearing the defendant agreed that the following facts are true: On August10, 2011, a confidential source (CS) posing as a drug trafficker met with Helena-West Helena Police Department Officer Herman Eaton at federal law enforcement direction. The CS told the Officer that the CS was attempting to contact another Helena-West Helena police officer to escort the CS who was transporting a distributable quantity of a controlled substance. Eaton, who was driving his Helena West-Helena patrol car and in police attire, offered to escort the CS to the bridge, and the CS agreed. Eaton then escorted the CS through Helena-West Helena to the Arkansas-Mississippi bridge, believing that the CS was transporting a distributable quantity of a controlled substance. At the base of the bridge, the CS got out of his car and walked to Eaton's patrol car, where the CS paid Eaton in cash for the escort.
The charges stemmed from multiple Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) investigations spanning more than a two-year period. The investigations, collectively referred to as “Operation Delta Blues,” primarily focused on public corruption and drug trafficking activities in the Helena-West Helena and Marianna, Arkansas, areas. The United States Attorney’s Office utilized sixteen court-authorized wiretaps over the course of Operation Delta Blues. Approximately 800 federal, state, and local law enforcement personnel from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations Division; and Arkansas State Police participated in the October 11, 2011, arrests.
Of the five law enforcement officers indicted in October 2011, three have pleaded guilty: Robert Rogers, Robert Wahls, and Herman Eaton. The remaining two law enforcement officers, Winston Dean Jackson and Marlene Kalb, are currently detained and awaiting trial. Jackson is charged in United States v. Sedrick Trice, et al., 4:11CR209-19 JMM (scheduled trial date: April 23, 2012) with one count of conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distribute controlled substances and two counts of using a telephone in furtherance of the drug trafficking conspiracy. Kalb is charged in United States v. Robert Rogers, et al., 4:11CR214-2 JMM (scheduled trial date: April 16, 2012) with two counts of attempted interference with commerce by means of extortion ("Hobbs Act"), three counts of attempt to distribute and possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance, and two counts of money laundering. An indictment contains only allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI, DEA, IRS, ATF, and ASP. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Julie Peters, Benecia B. Moore, and Michael Gordon.
Christopher R. Thyer
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