Herman Eaton, a former Helena-West Helena police officer, appeared Thursday morning before U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes, admitting he escorted what he believed was a shipment of drugs through the city to the state line.
Eaton, one of five police officers arrested in the investigation, was originally charged with nine counts. As part of the deal with prosecutors, he pleaded guilty to money laundering and extortion in exchange for the other charges being dropped and a recommended sentence of 16 months in prison.
The two counts could carry a prison term of up to 40 years in addition to a $500,000 fine. Holmes said he would wait until a future sentencing date before deciding whether to accept the deal.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie Peters said prosecutors were prepared to present video and audio evidence showing Eaton was approached on Aug. 10, 2011 by a confidential source posing as a drug trafficker. Eaton, on duty and wearing his police uniform, agreed to escort the man through Helena-West Helena, stopping at the foot of the bridge to Mississippi to accept cash from the man.
Asked by Holmes to describe what he'd done wrong, Eaton acknowledged accepting money he shouldn't have while knowing the man was likely a drug dealer.
"I had reasons to believe he may have had something," Eaton said.
Holmes then asked if Eaton was referring to contraband.
"Yes sir, I knew it was a possibility."
The plea deal also calls for Eaton to never work in law enforcement again.
The other officers were also accused of taking bribes or overlooking criminal offenses.
Two of them, former Helena-West Helena police officer and Phillips County sheriff's deputy Robert "Bam Bam" Rogers and former Marvell police officer Robert Wahls, entered guilty pleas before Eaton.
In all, 70 people were indicted in Operation Delta Blues.
Read tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.
Thank you for coming to the website of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. We're working to keep you informed with the latest breaking news.