Erek Ballentine, the former police chief of Bald Knob, Arkansas, who asserted that supporters of open carry spray-painted and then burned his personal vehicle, has made a plea deal. The deal appears to be calculated to shield Ballentine from going to jail for not only burning the truck himself, but for a gun theft revealed during the course of the arson investigation.
The former chief of the Bald Knob Police Department pled guilty to a gun crime on Monday stemming from an incident in September of 2015.
Christopher R. Thyer, United States Attorney, Jeffrey Reed, Resident Agent for the ATF, and Col. William J. Bryant of the Arkansas State Police announced on Monday that former Bald Knob Police Chief Erek Balentine, 31, pled guilty to a felony charge for possessing a stolen firearm.
As a result, Balentine agreed to pay $12,968.71 in restitution to Progressive Insurance relating to an incident in which his personal truck burned just before his resignation from the police department.
According to the news release from the U.S. attorney, Monday’s plea hearing took place before United States District Judge Brian S. Miller in Little Rock and sentencing will take place at a later date.
The gun crime was exposed as investigators came to view Ballentine as the only legitimate suspect in the arson of his truck, which had been crudely spray-painted with pro-Second amendment slogans and then set on fire not long after his department came into the public spotlight for the arrest, conviction, and reversal on appeal of an open carrier. The $12,968.71 in restitution to Progressive Insurance in the deal strongly suggests that Ballentine must pay the company to avoid arson charges.
The shotgun at the center of the gun crime plea was a Beretta A300 meant to be the prize in an auction to buy a K-9 cage for the police department. Instead of using the shotgun in the fundraiser, Ballentine allegedly took possession of the firearm and attempted.
Balletine faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the gun charge, but will likely receive far less when he is sentenced.