Sen. Cotton Tours Crime Lab, Touts Legislation to Restore Armed Criminal Career Act

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton toured the state crime lab in Little Rock Wednesday morning with Gov. Asa Hutchinson and U.S. Attorney Cody Hiland.

The lab works more than 30,000 cases a year. 

During a press conference, Sen. Cotton thanked the facility for its collaboration with all levels of law enforcement to combat crime from arrest to sentencing.

Cotton said one example of that relationship recently played out in the capital city, when federal immigration authorities arrested about a dozen people for being in the country illegally during a state-led, alcohol-related investigation at Trois nightclub. 

“We’ve heard from those federal officers that it was a very model of local, state and federal cooperation,” Cotton said. “You don’t always see that across the country, but I’m grateful we have that here in Arkansas.”

The group also stressed the importance of the state’s third crime lab opening in Lowell next year, which will free up more time at the Little Rock lab for homicide cases. 

Another state and federal collaboration is still in the works. 

One week ago, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions visited Hiland’s office in the capital city to talk violent crime.

Sessions announced Cotton is working on one of his top priorities, a legislative fix to a law the U.S. Supreme Court struck down in 2015. The Armed Career Criminal Act required a minimum 15-year sentence for felons caught with a firearm who already have three violent crime convictions.

“My good friend, Sen. Cotton, is a leader on this,” Sessions told a crowd full of law enforcement officials and prosecutors. “I’ve got to tell you, he’s working on legislation that’s intended to fix this problem for good.” 

Cotton explained his plan to restore the law after Wednesday’s tour at the crime lab.

“As the name of that law suggests, it only applies to the worst of the worst,” he said. 

In the past three years, 1,400 career criminals have been released early, 18 in Arkansas. Nearly half of them have been rearrested an average of three times.

Cotton and Sessions pointed to one case in particular: Cornelius Spencer

Eight months after his release, Spencer was rearrested for aggravated assault and domestic battery. A year later, he was arrested for kidnapping and raping two homeless people.

Spencer is currently in the Pulaski County Jail.

“My legislation would put tools back in the hands of U.S. attorneys, like Cody Hiland,” Cotton said.

“General Sessions has been very clear, the president has been very clear we want to work with our state and local partners,” Hiland said. “They serve as 80 percent of law enforcement nationwide.”

Cotton also made it clear wherever these criminals will face the maximum penalty, the state or federal level, that’s where they’re going.

“My point of view is if you’re a violent felon, if you’re a repeat felon, we don’t want you in Arkansas,” he said.  

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