Jurors convicted former UCA Chief of Staff Jack Gillean of six counts of commercial burglary March 12 at the Van Buren County Courthouse in Clinton.
Gillean, 57, was sentenced to three years in prison with a $35,000 fine – $10,000 for his first count and $5,000 for each of his five other counts.
He also faces 10 years of probation for the five other counts.
The jury took about an hour and a half to deliberate before convicting Gillean.
Gillean faced a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for each count.
Jury selection for Gillean’s trial was March 7 at Van Buren County Circuit Court in Clinton. Trial proceedings were March 10- 12 before Judge Charles Clawson.
He was charged in October 2012 and pleaded not guilty in November 2012.
The burglary incidents occurred on campus between Feb. 11, 2011, and May 3, 2011. His charges resulted from him giving former student Cameron Stark his university master keys
and ID, allowing Stark to access professors’ offices to steal test information.
Gillean remains free on a $17,500 bond he posted in October 2012.
He has 30 days to file an appeal. If the Arkansas Court of Appeals reaffirms the verdict, he will serve his three-year sentence.
Gillean will be eligible for parole after serving as few as six months.
President Tom Courtway declined to comment to The Echo on March 12 regarding the Gillean verdict.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Troy Braswell said he was confident the jury would make the right decision.
Outside the courthouse, Braswell said the verdict brings “closure” to UCA and that the university is moving forward with Courtway’s leadership.
“I think the sentence is appropriate,” he said. “I think the community has spoken and said they’re not going to stand for this type of action. He’s got to be held responsible and the jury did that today.”
Gillean was deputy attorney general and executive assistant for criminal justice during Jim Guy Tucker’s term as Arkansas governor.
While the court was in recess before the sentencing phase, Gillean spoke with relatives, but stayed silent throughout most of his time in the courtroom.
Faulkner County Sheriff Andy Shock escorted Gillean in handcuffs out of the courthouse. Gillean draped a black coat over his arms, hiding the handcuffs.
When asked for comment after sentencing, Gillean replied, “Speak to my attorney.”
Defense Attorney Tim Dudley declined to comment.
Braswell said the state will pursue the two other charges – one felony count of fraudulent insurance acts and one misdemeanor count of issuing a false financial statement.
Prior to the sentencing phase, Braswell presented additional information to the jurors about Gillean. He called Conway Police Department Detective Brian Williams to the stand to read a text message exchange between Stark and Gillean’s phone.
The prosecution presented evidence relating to potential drug distribution from Gillean in regard to marijuana.
One text from Stark’s phone asked the recipient on Gillean’s phone if the person could “spare one bowl.”
The text from Gillean’s phone in response said the phone user had “plenty of weed… that should be smoked.”
Dudley told jurors before deliberating the appropriate sentence for Gillean that his client shouldn’t be tried on a crime he wasn’t charged with at his trial.
“If they wanted to charge Jack Gillean with drug offenses, they would have done so,” he said. “That ain’t right and that ain’t fair.”
While Dudley acknowledged Gillean had made mistakes, he said Gillean faced enough punishment at the trial.
“[Gillean] lost his job. He lost his reputation. He has been publically humiliated by this trial,” Dudley said.
Braswell agreed that everyone makes mistakes, but added that Gillean created his own problems.
“He’s hanging out in the wrong company,” Braswell said. “You know what the wrong company is? College students.”
Dudley called Gillean’s twin sister to the stand to describe her brother’s personal character and family.
“Jack is a patient, compassionate, private man,” Gillean’s sister said. “A loving brother, who is always there for us.”
MASTER KEY ACCESS
Stark testified that he gained access to campus master keys from Gillean after the two became close friends in 2010.
In court, Stark said he frequently went to Gillean’s apartment and drank with the former UCA employee, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Stark was the second witness called on during the trial’s first day of testimony, March 10.
In his testimony, Stark said he and Gillean stopped at Lewis Science Center on Feb.11, 2011, and Gillean opened cell biology professor Bhupinder Vorha’s office.
While in the office, Stark said an upcoming exam was found on Vorha’s computer. He printed it and asked for the keys on multiple occasions following the initial incident.
Dudley told jurors Stark knew where Gillean kept the master keys in his apartment and said Stark took the keys without Gillean’s knowledge or permission.
UCAPD Lt. Preston Grumbles found Gillean’s “grand master” key in Stark’s pocket. When asked by police where he got keys, Stark said, “Jack [Gillean] gave them to me.”
Stark said he used the keys about 20 times to steal tests from UCA science and history professors’ offices.
Stark had immunity from prosecution as a result of his cooperation in the case.
Gillean resigned from his UCA position June 15, 2012, following a university investigation.
Courtway questioned him about a grand master key that was lost months prior.
UCAPD notified campus officials about a former student, Stark, stealing prescription medicine.
A key figure in the case – Ryan Scott – became noteworthy for revealing personal relations that the state considered relevant to convicting Gillean based on evidence he could have obtained as a witness.
Gillean met Scott, a man in his 20s, via Craigslist and the two entered into a personal relationship at the time of his employment at UCA, according to the Democrat-Gazette.
The prosecution said in a March 7 written response to Gillean’s attorneys, “The State has no intention of making the Defendant’s sexual orientation an issue in this case. However, the State does intend on introducing evidence of a sexual relationship between the Defendant and Ryan Scott. The distinction between homosexual and heterosexual relationships is of no consequence. The relevance lies in the existence of an intimate relationship between the Defendant and Mr. Scott.”
Scott was subpoenaed in the case.
He and Gillean lived together and Braswell said during the March 7 jury selection process that there is evidence to suggest the two engaged in an intimate relationship.
He added that Scott “saw and heard evidence which is critical to the State’s case” during this time.
In addition to Stark, student James Santiago and former students Jared Santiago and Stephanie Paladino were also granted immunity in Gillean’s case.
Other top UCA administrators were subpoenaed in the case, including Courtway, UCAPD Chief Larry James, Transfer Services Director Jeff Pitchford and Physical Plant Director Larry Lawrence.
Before Gillean’s trial, two other top UCA officials – Presidents Lu Hardin and Allen Meadors pleaded guilty to crimes and did not serve any jail or prison time.
Perceived negative pretrial publicity from local news media became a topic of debate and a strong point in favor of the defense before Gillean’s trial.
In a Jan. 31 motion, Gillean’s attorneys – Dudley, Nicki Nicolo and Samuel Perroni – addressed the need again to seal evidence and documents from being published.
A similar motion was filed Sept. 19, 2013.
“The press described the material as providing ‘a glance at behind the scenes work in the case’,” the motion states. “As far as the defendant can tell, there was no real justification for this other than to secure another newspaper headline and the Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Troy Braswell.”
At the June 11, 2013 pretrial hearing in Conway, Clawson said the media attention provided a negative environment threat that was “too great.”
Braswell disputed allegations made in the motion filed Sept. 19, 2013 that asked Clawson to seal all future motions and responses related to Gillean’s case.
Gillean’s attorneys accused in the motion that the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Log Cabin Democrat worked against their client and aided the prosecution.
Gillean’s attorneys said in the Jan. 31 motion that future motions and filings “would likely contain sensitive and potentially inflammatory material and facts.”
The state objected to the motion.
“There is little doubt that the prosecuting attorney [Cody Hiland] and the press, particularly the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, are in lock step,” the motion states.
Democrat-Gazette articles from Oct. 5, 2013, and Oct. 18, 2013, were attached at the end of the motion as evidence.
An Oct. 4, 2013, article in Log Cabin Democrat was also attached.
Clawson approved a motion for change of venue from Faulkner County to Van Buren County as a result of the perceived negative attention in the case.