Former Bald Knob chief pleads in gun case UPDATE | Arkansas Blog

Monday, March 14, 2016

Former Bald Knob chief pleads in gun case UPDATE

Posted By on Mon, Mar 14, 2016 at 10:30 AM

The Searcy Daily Citizen reports that former Bald Knob police chief Erek Balentine is expected in federal court at 1:30 p.m. today to plead to a charge of possession of stolen property. The report was based on the newspaper's interview with Balentine's lawyer.

The charge concerns a firearm in possession of the police department that Balentine tried to sell, the newspaper said.

Balentine made news last year when he reported that his vehicle had been burned and painted with a pro-2nd Amendment message. This followed Balentine's arrest of a man who wore a holstered gun in a McDonald's. Balentine later resigned, citing concerns for his family's safety.

The gun charge arose from the investigation of the arson. His guilty plea, several have reported, is part of a settlement that means the federal government won't pursue any charges in the arson case.

He'll be sentenced later, after a probation office report.

UPDATE: The Justice Department news release indicates the plea deal included a decision not to pursue a charge against Balentine for fraud in an insurance claim on his burned truck. He agreed to pay $12,000 restitution.  The release:

Christopher R. Thyer, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Jeffrey Reed, Resident Agent in Charge for the Bureau of Alcohol,  Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), and Col. William J. Bryant of the Arkansas State Police, announced today that former Bald Knob Police Chief Erek Balentine, 31, of Bald Knob, pled guilty to a felony Information charging him with possessing a stolen firearm. In addition, he agreed to personally pay more than $12,000 in restitution relating to an incident in which his personal truck burned shortly prior to his resignation from the police department.

Today’s plea hearing took place in Little Rock before United States District Judge  Brian S. Miller. Judge Miller will sentence Balentine at a later date.

Balentine’s final day as Bald Knob police chief was October 5, 2015. In spring 2015, Balentine had a conversation with a former White County police officer who was interested in donating a shotgun to the Bald Knob Police Department. Bald Knob was attempting to raise money for a K-9 unit for the department, and the purpose of this firearm donation was to auction off the shotgun to obtain funds to retrofit a police car with a cage to hold the K-9 unit.

The former officer purchased the shotgun, a Beretta, Model A300, 12-gauge shotgun, for $1,199 and had it shipped to All Star Pawn in Bald Knob, a federal firearm licensee. The donor intended for All Star Pawn to hold the shotgun and make a legal transfer to the winner of the auction, after the police department had the funds. At no time was Balentine or anyone authorized to keep the shotgun for personal use prior to the auction.

On October 2, 2015, the last business day he was still police chief, Balentine retrieved the Beretta shotgun from All Star Pawn. On October 14, 2015, Arkansas State Police Corporal Mike McNeill received information that Balentine was attempting to sell the shotgun, which was still police property, to an individual with whom Balentine was acquainted. Earlier that day, Balentine sent this acquaintance a text message with a picture of the Beretta shotgun, still in its case, which stated, “brand new, I will take $800 for it.” Balentine also said that he needed the money for personal reasons.

After this communication agents observed Balentine go to his residence in Bald Knob and retrieve what appeared to be a gun in its case and proceed toward the location of the proposed gun transaction. Cpl. McNeill and ATF Special Agent David Oliver then initiated a traffic stop on Balentine, at which time he admitted he had a gun in the car.

The shotgun was never auctioned.

During the plea hearing, in addition to admitting to the facts of the stolen firearm, Balentine did not contest facts offered by the United States to support a restitution
payment of $12,968.71 to Progressive Insurance related to a fraudulent insurance claim for a vehicle fire. This restitution is designed to repay Progressive for insurance payments from the fire which destroyed Balentine’s 2007 Dodge Ram pickup truck.

The fire occurred at Balentine’s residence on September 24, 2015, and was immediately determined to be arson. At Monday’s plea hearing the United States—in providing a factual basis for the proposed restitution order—presented numerous examples of evidence which suggest that Balentine was a participant in causing the fire which resulted in the damage to his truck. The United States informed Judge Miller that it would not pursue charges before a Grand Jury for arson and mail fraud, and Balentine agreed to repay as restitution the money Progressive paid as a result of Balentine’s fraudulent insurance claim.

The charge of possession of a stolen firearm carries a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release. The investigation was conducted by the Arkansas State Police and the ATF. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Chris Givens.

Tags: , , ,

From the ArkTimes store

Favorite

Comments (10)

Showing 1-10 of 10

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-10 of 10

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • University of Texas removes Confederate statues

    Confederate statuary was removed overnight from a prominent spot on the University of Texas campus because they symbolize white supremacy and neo-Nazism, the university president said.
    • Aug 21, 2017
  • Eclipse day. Woodstock?

    I was amused by the excitement of a NASA scientist over today's eclipse, as reported by CNN.
    • Aug 21, 2017
  • Open line and Civil War update

    More Confederacy defenders were on hand in Bentonville against imagined threats to a one of hte Confederate statues put up long after the Civil War to spin a narrative about the noble Lost Cause.
    • Aug 20, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Jason Rapert vs. Wikipedia

    Sen. Jason Rapert against the world: Wikipedia edition.
    • Jan 23, 2016
  • A response to police arrests becomes a tutorial on race, class and policing in Little Rock

    John Walker, the 79-year-old civil rights lawyer, and his associate, Omavi Shukur, 29, a young lawyer devoted to criminal justice reform, talked to press this afternoon about their arrests Monday by Little Rock police for supposedly obstructing governmental operations in observing and attempting to film a routine police traffic stop. It was a tutorial on sharp views of race, class and governance in Little Rock.
    • Sep 29, 2016
  • More on how highways were used to wipe out "blight" of non-white neighborhoods

    Vox, a news website that concerns itself with energy and other issues, has a fine piece, including before and after images, on the history of the U.S. interstate system and why roads were built through the middle of cities (unless people of influence stopped them — see Manhattan, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.)
    • Mar 22, 2016

Most Shared

  • Take yourself there: Mavis Staples coming to LR for Central High performance

    Gospel and R&B singer and civil rights activist Mavis Staples, who has been inspiring fans with gospel-inflected freedom songs like "I'll Take You There" and "March Up Freedom's Highway" and the poignant "Oh What a Feeling" will come to Little Rock for the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of Central High.
  • Klan's president

    Everything that Donald Trump does — make that everything that he says — is calculated to thrill his lustiest disciples. But he is discovering that what was brilliant for a politician is a miscalculation for a president, because it deepens the chasm between him and most Americans.
  • On Charlottesville

    Watching the Charlottesville spectacle from halfway across the country, I confess that my first instinct was to raillery. Vanilla ISIS, somebody called this mob of would-be Nazis. A parade of love-deprived nerds marching bravely out of their parents' basements carrying tiki torches from Home Depot.
  • Lynchings hidden in the history of the Hot Springs Confederate monument

    Hot Springs twice erupted into the kind of violence that has its roots in the issues left unresolved by the Civil War, and both times, it happened right where that monument to Confederate soldiers stands today.

Most Viewed

  • Open line and Civil War update

    More Confederacy defenders were on hand in Bentonville against imagined threats to a one of hte Confederate statues put up long after the Civil War to spin a narrative about the noble Lost Cause.

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation