- Associated Press - Friday, September 12, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A former northeast Arkansas judge was sentenced to 40 years in prison on drug charges Friday after prosecutors accused him of killing a co-defendant who had agreed to testify against him.

Bob Sam Castleman has not been charged in the 2013 death of Travis Perkins, but U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes said prosecutors had done a satisfactory job linking Castleman to it. Castleman’s lawyer, Blake Hendrix, objected, saying that considering Perkins’ death while contemplating Castleman’s sentence would have an “extremely disproportionate effect.”

Hendrix said the sentence should not have exceeded 46 months.

In a daylong sentencing hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Anne Gardner said Castleman, 64, killed the 34-year-old Perkins to silence him. FBI agent Ed Jernigan told Holmes that another co-defendant, Castleman’s son Jerrod Castleman, had said his father dressed in a trench coat and wig and drove from a West Memphis casino to Pocahontas to kill Perkins.

Ballistics experts noted a connection between slugs found at Perkins’ apartment and in a tree off Castleman’s back porch.

Hendrix argued that any evidence from Jerrod Castleman would be “inherently suspect” because he also cooperated with prosecutors, but the judge noted the son knew details that few would know, including the number of times Perkins was shot. Other witnesses said the younger Castleman was elsewhere when Perkins died.

Perkins’ body was found three days before he was to appear in court to change his plea in the case and begin cooperating with prosecutors. It was also four days after a local newspaper published a story about Perkins cooperating with the government.

Bob Sam Castleman, who with his son was once imprisoned for mailing a venomous snake to a man amid a property dispute, was among eight people named in drug charges in 2012. He was convicted last December of conspiracy to make methamphetamine and maintaining a drug premises.

Hendrix said Castleman was only a casual drug user who let his girlfriend and his son make meth at his farm, and deserved a lesser sentence. He said if prosecutors wanted to link Castleman to the killing, they should have to prove their accusation beyond a reasonable doubt. Holmes said a lower standard was proper at Friday’s hearing.

By finding that prosecutors had linked Castleman to Perkins’ death, sentencing guidelines ballooned to life in prison from a suggested penalty of five to 40 years in prison. However, since the conspiracy to make meth charge carries a maximum sentence of just 40 years, the judge was obligated to stop there.

Castleman was a district judge in Pocahontas over a decade ago. In 2004, he and his son pleaded guilty to mailing a live copperhead snake to Albert Coy Staton. Staton had purchased an all-terrain vehicle from Jerrod Castleman and claimed the vehicle needed to be repaired.

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