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Trumann ex-officer pleads guilty to drug charge

The Courier, couriernews.com
BYLINE: The Associated Press

Trumann, AR

HARRISBURG (AP) — A former police detective from the northeast Arkansas city of Trumann has pleaded guilty to a drug charge and acknowledged delivering a controlled substance to his former boss.

Erik Willbanks, 34, pleaded guilty Monday to one count of obtaining a controlled substance by fraudulent means. A second charge of obtaining a controlled substance by fraudulent means was dismissed, The Jonesboro Sun reported Tuesday.

As part of the plea, Willbanks was given a 60-month suspended sentence, fined $1,000 and ordered to pay $220 in court costs.

Arkansas State Police arrested Willbanks in February 2013 after investigating allegations that prescription drugs were stolen from the Trumann Police Department evidence locker.

Willbanks’ boss, former Trumann Police Chief Tony Rusher, earlier pleaded guilty to one count of obtaining a controlled substance by fraudulent means and was given a 60-month suspended sentence, fined $1,000 and ordered to pay $220 in court costs. He resigned from the position of police chief in February 2012.

Rusher told Arkansas State Police investigator Phil Carter that he was addicted to Hydrocodone. Willbanks told officials that Rusher had asked him at least 15 times for Hydrocodone and that he saw Rusher take the pills from the evidence room, Carter said.

Willbank’s lawyer, Scott Emerson of Jonesboro, noted that his client did not use any of the drugs.

“He also blew the whistle on Rusher, went to the state police and told them what was going on,” Emerson said. “He was acting out of fear for his job. But in hindsight, he probably should have resigned.”

The deferred sentence gives Willbanks a chance to start over, Emerson said. “In today’s Orwellian society, it will still be on the web. But (after five years), he will legally have the right to vote, possess a firearm,” the lawyer said. “He was a good officer and served the city. He even testified in (other) court cases because it was his job. It is a sad case.”

Special Prosecuting Attorney Henry Boyce said prosecutors were happy the case was successfully concluded by punishing both defendants.

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