Elected attorney looking to future

From The Jonesboro Sun, article by Michael Wilkey. Photo by Graycen Colbert.

JONESBORO — The incoming prosecuting attorney for the 2nd Judicial District said two of his chief priorities are illegal drugs and a task force on Internet crimes against children.

Scott Ellington was elected to the post in May, and he’s to be sworn in on Saturday. He has spent the last few weeks preparing for his new job while serving as a deputy prosecutor in Craighead County.

The Brookland native said he spent Thursday signing paperwork to appoint deputy prosecutors in the district that includes Clay, Craighead, Crittenden, Greene, Mississippi and Poinsett counties.

The crimes against children task force is an idea Ellington said he has wanted to implement for some time.

In 2009, the Jonesboro Police Department and the City of Jonesboro received a $113,114 grant for a forensic lab to process evidence in computer and Internet crimes. Ellington said the forensic lab has broken several cases thanks to newer equipment and training by officers, but he added that those cases have also been solved because of aggressive prosecution.

Ellington said he will be paying close attention to the upcoming legislative session in Little Rock.

“The governor and the Legislature will pass laws on how to dispose of drug crimes,” he said. “I know they will have their hands full on determining sentences.”

He said he supports the idea of drug courts, which allow a person with an addiction to either drugs or alcohol to enter into a treatment program.

The system also has certain requirements for the person that include random drug or urine tests, compliance with a probation or parole office or working at a job.

“I will promote and encourage the use (of drug courts) in all six counties,” he said. “But we have to find a resolution to make it work.”

The three counties in the 2nd Judicial District that now use drug courts are Craighead, Crittenden and Greene.

Ellington said he has a novel approach in punishing people who violate terms of a drug court agreement: Keep 10 beds open in each county jail in the district, then sentence violators to serve an immediate 1-day jail term for a first offense and a 2-day term for a second offense.

Ellington said he supports giving probation officers and drug court administrators the authority to lock up violators, adding to a more “swift, immediate incarceration.”

“The 2nd Judicial District is a great place to live, a great place to work and a great place to do business,” he said. “I want to work to make it a safe place to live for families. I don’t mind working with first offenders. But people with a criminal history, repeat offenders, they should be sent to the penitentiary.”

Ellington said another plan involves the creation of a mental health court focusing on Craighead and Crittenden counties, which both received a federal grant earlier this year to pay for the program.

He said Circuit Judge Victor Hill of West Memphis has agreed to serve as the judge for the court, while current 2nd Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Mike Walden is serving on a task force on the matter. Craighead County Sheriff Jack McCann has also supported the plan, Ellington said.

“Jack is a big promoter of this,” he said.

Ellington said he would like to see the program expanded across the district in the future.

Ellington said there will be no major changes in the prosecutor’s offices throughout the district. Each of the deputies are remaining in their offices, except for Walden, who will now serve as a deputy prosecutor in the Jonesboro office. Walden was appointed in 2009 to fill the unexpired term of now-Circuit Judge Brent Davis of Jonesboro.

Ellington, a graduate of both Arkansas State University and the William H. Bowen School of Law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, said he is hoping for a smooth transition into the prosecuting attorney’s office and a smooth term.

“I want to get up and running and not get in anybody’s way,” Ellington said.