The trial of former UCA Chief of Staff Jack Gillean is underway in Clinton.
After opening statements, Lt. Preston Grumbles, an investigator with the University of Central Arkansas Police Department, was called to testify about the early stages of the investigation.
Cameron Stark, then a UCA student, was identified on UCA security cameras getting into locked offices, according to UCAPD, in 2012. Stark was taken into custody by Grumbles, who testified today that Stark had a “master key” in his pocket.
Stark was arrested in 2012 after being linked to a UCA employee’s complaint that someone had taken prescription medicine from their office, and is testifying to fulfill the conditions of an immunity agreement with the 20th Judicial District prosecutor’s office. He will be granted immunity so long as he testifies fully and truthfully to the satisfaction of prosecutors in the case. Stark admitted to having broken into several professors’ offices during 2011 and 2012 to steal copies of upcoming tests and, in at least one case, the prescription drug Adderall from a UCA faculty member’s office.
Gillean is charged with five counts of commercial burglary for allegedly giving Stark the key, and also with felony insurance fraud and misdemeanor filing of a false financial statement for incidents not directly related to the burglaries.
During direct examination by deputy prosecutor Troy Braswell, Stark testified that Gillean had given him the keys personally on several occasions upon request before giving him the keys to keep on a more permanent basis, though his testimony was unclear as to when this was. The prosecution also questioned Stark about another man Stark described as a friend and mentor who he said had cautioned him about using the keys to access professors’ offices to look at upcoming tests.
“He said he knew what I was up to and to stop it right away,” Stark said in testimony.
The prosecution claims that this mentor can corroborate Stark's claim that Gillean gave him the key, and also that text messages recovered from Stark's phone would also corroborate the story.
Attorney Tim Dudley, part of Gillean's defense team, said in his opening statement that this mentor's corroboration would be called into question, as would the text messages recovered form Stark's phones.
When cross-examining Stark, Dudley approached the witness with a large, heavy binder full of 491 pages of text messages from Stark’s two cellphones.
Stark had told UCAPD investigators while being interviewed after his arrest that there were “specific text messages” on the phone proving that Gillean had given him the keys. However, Stark agreed when questioned by Dudley that nowhere in the 491-page tome did such a text message appear.
Stark said that he was aware of “gaps” in the text message transcripts, but said that he couldn’t explain them.
As for the mentor who Stark said could corroborate his claim that Gillean gave him the keys, Dudley pointed out Stark’s statement during the UCAPD interview in which he said that this mentor “hated” Gillean. Stark said on the stand that “hated” was probably too strong a term, and that this mentor had just been frustrated by Gillean’s involvement in Stark’s activity that the mentor disagreed with.
When asked by Dudley if he had been in any sort of romantic relationship with Gillean, Stark said “no.”
Stark also testified to using a key to Gillean’s truck to try and find the master keys without Gillean’s permission.
Generally on Monday it seemed that the defense was trying to undermine the credibility of Stark and cast doubt on what the prosecution claimed to be the corroborating evidence of the mentor and the text messages.
Also, Dudley questioned Stark about his immunity deal with prosecutors, which was offered to Stark shortly after his arrest.
“Did you tell them that you’d give them Jack [Gillean] if they gave you immunity?” Dudley said.
“Yes sir,” Stark replied.
Stark also answered “yes” to Dudley’s statement that Stark was given the offer before prosecutors knew the substance of his expected testimony.
“You think they just bought a pig in a poke?” Dudley asked, referencing an idiom meaning to buy something without proper examination.
“I don’t know what they think they bought, sir,” Stark answered.
On Tuesday the prosecution hopes to wrap up its case, at which point Gillean’s defense may call witnesses to refute the state’s evidence or cast doubt on the truthfulness of some of its witnesses.
Gillean can choose to, but does not have to, be questioned on the witness stand himself.