Roderick Talley out on bail; reporter raises questions about "suspicious circumstances" of charges against him | Arkansas Blog

Roderick Talley out on bail; reporter raises questions about "suspicious circumstances" of charges against him

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TALLEY: His digging helped expose police malfeasance. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • TALLEY: His digging helped expose police malfeasance.

Speaking of Roderick Talley, I had meant to post earlier this week on some updates and commentary from Washington Post reporter Radley Balko on the latest in the current charges against Talley.

Talley was a key figure in Balko's investigative work on abuses in the Little Rock Police Department, and has filed a federal lawsuit alleging malfeasance by the LRPD narcotics unit.

"Now, Talley finds himself in a lot of legal trouble, and the circumstances of his predicament are pretty suspicious," Balko wrote in a Washington Post editorial last Friday.

Last month, Talley fled from a courthouse when a judge ordered him arrested after he was late for a court appearance; he was then accused of striking a police officer with his car. The officer was not injured and Talley disputes that he struck him with his car, though he admits that he fled. He turned himself in shortly after the incident and was jailed. On Monday, Balko announced that Talley had made bail, and the charge involving allegedly striking the officer was reduced to a misdemeanor:


The backstory: In October, Balko published a report about malfeasance in the LRPD narcotics unit that involved the no-knock raid and arrest of Talley, a 31-year-old barber. The raid itself was dangerously executed, and the arrest affidavit was a bogus concoction apparently based on outright lies. The charges against Talley were dropped; he captured the raid, and evidence that the supposed probable cause was a fiction, on his security camera. Angered about this experience, he then began pursuing open-records requests on other raids performed by that narcotics unit, leading to charges against at least two other suspects to be dropped.



That work sparked Balko's investigation. Talley's lawsuit federal lawsuit against the city of Little Rock and LRPD officers, meanwhile, is ongoing. Balko reports that Talley had "experienced some harassment as a result of his attempts to expose police misconduct"  — including being SWAT-ted while staying with some friends in a Little Rock suburb — and moved out of his Little Rock home to his grandmother's home in Mississippi. 

By November, Talley was back in jail. It's a long, convoluted story, but the gist: Talley fled from a Cross County courthouse after a judge ordered him arrested because he was late to a court hearing on a highly dubious forgery charge that dated from several years ago. The police claimed that Talley struck an officer with his car when he fled; Talley and his attorneys dispute that account and say that security footage will prove what happened. Talley admits that he was wrong to flee, but says that he panicked. From Balko:

His mind flashed to the harassment he has endured since exposing the LRPD raids (as I reported last month, Talley says he was SWAT-ted while staying with some friends in a Little Rock suburb), and he feared for his safety if he were to be taken to a jail cell.
The incident ended up becoming an issue in the mayoral campaign, when the Little Rock Fraternal Order of Police used it in a smear campaign against Frank Scott that critics argued was racially charged; Baker Kurrus, the FOP's preferred candidate, requested the FOP's controversial post be taken down and the FOP complied.

A number of the circumstances leading up to the arrest order in Cross County appear highly unusual, as Balko outlines in detail.

The underlying forgery charge relates to a paperwork error from March of 2016. Talley improperly cashed a check that needed to be co-signed, but the check was indeed intended for him, there was no theft or deception involved, there was no victim, and no criminal complaint filed.

Cross County prosecutors waited 22 months and then brought felony forgery charges against Talley in January of 2018 for this alleged "crime."

Why did these charges suddenly appear? Balko says the timing is at least suspicious:
[T]he charges, however, did come after Talley had begun posting on social media what he was learning about the LRPD narcotics unit. Of course, it’s impossible to say if the charge was retaliation. The county seat of Cross County, Wynne, is about an hour and 40 minutes from Little Rock. But it isn’t at all clear why this charge was resurrected nearly two years after the alleged crime. (The office of Cross County assistant district attorney Vincent Guest said Guest was out of town when I called, and has not returned my call.) 
Once the charges were filed, Talley's first trial date was set for June. He drove four hours to the courthouse in Wynne; the proceedings had been cancelled and no one notified him. He requested a speedy trial to get the matter resolved but the court granted the state an exemption, and the trial was postponed twice more. It was finally scheduled for November 14. Talley once agains drove the four hours to Wynne but encountered a severe winter storm and was running late (Balko confirmed the details of the storm on that day; Talley says he called the court twice to inform them of the situation and that he was on his way). Talley arrived half an hour late. The judge ordered him arrested.

Here's Balko:

According to news reports, he ran out of the courthouse to the rental car he had taken to Wynne. At this point, accounts of the incident differ. According to police, a sheriff’s deputy tried to prevent Talley from leaving. Talley then drove the car at the deputy, causing the deputy to fall onto the hood. Talley then turned out of the parking lot, leading the deputy to fall off the car. Laux states that Talley says the deputy threw himself onto the hood of the car to prevent Talley from leaving. But because the hood was wet, the deputy slipped off the side, at which point Talley drove off. Apparently there is video of the incident that will confirm what happened. Talley insists that the reports that he struck the deputy are false. At worst, he may have tried to drive away while the deputy was still partially on the hood.
In addition to a litany of other charges, Talley was initially charged with aggravated assault on a  police officer but the charge was reduced to a misdemeanor. As Balko notes in a followup story, published in the Washington Post yesterday, "It has ... been known to all parties since the incident occurred that there is security camera footage that should determine who is telling the truth. That footage hasn’t yet been released, but the decision to drop the felony charge certainly suggests that it’s favorable to Talley."

If it turns out that the Cross County authorities exaggerated what happened, that casts an ugly light on what happened next, writes Balko:

If [the surveillance footage] is exonerating, that makes the decision of the Cross County sheriff (amplified by police agencies all over the state) to put out an APB indicating that Talley was dangerous pretty inexcusable. That warning likely put Talley’s life at risk.

Talley's trial on the trumped-up forgery charges is set for March.

One last note from Balko on all this, from the Washington Post earlier this week (prior to Talley bailing out and having his aggravated assault on a police officer charge reduced to a misdemeanor):

Talley should certainly take responsibility for these mistakes. But the predicament in which he now finds himself is the product of not just his own bad choices, but also of a harsh and unforgiving system, exacerbated by him being a black man without means, all multiplied by his renown as the guy who took on the police. He took on the system. And now the system is punishing him for it. It’s also hard not to notice that the most serious charge Talley is now facing is for putting a police officer in harm’s way. He could get six years for that. Yet the cops who put Little Rock residents — including children — in harm’s way with illegal no-knock warrants and dangerous explosives are unlikely to face any repercussions at all, much less criminal charges.

Talley’s panicked decision to run away was the wrong one, but it also isn’t all that difficult to understand. The state of Arkansas seems intent on crushing him for it.

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