Warrant from District Court lands social media trouble-maker in jail on contempt charges
The legal woes continued this week for a embattled and largely discredited founder and board president of a floundering local non-profit organization who found herself arrested Tuesday on misdemeanor charges stemming from yet another courtroom drama earlier in the month. Darla Roachelle Lackey, 48, who heads up the nearly defunct food pantry Pay it Forward Fort Smith, was booked into the Sebastian County Adult Detention Center at 12:12 p.m. on Tuesday after a warrant was issued for her arrest through the Fort Smith District Court.
Lackey was arrested on one count of Contempt of Court - Disorderly, Contemptuous, or Insolent Behavior Committed During Court two weeks after her behavior in a April 4 small claims hearing in front of Judge Amy Grimes. She was released three hours after her booking on a $1000 signature bond. While observers in the courtroom that day say lackey's behavior during the hearing warranted immediate sanctions for contempt, her arrest on Tuesday was actually for actions involving the use of a cell phone to take pictures inside the courtroom during the court session and subsequently misleading a court bailiff about the situation. Lackey is somewhat of a social media pariah with her multiple Facebook profiles and so-called "news pages" that are merely a front for her incessant attacks on members of the community that refuse to agree with her agenda and tactics. Today in Fort Smith currently has a list of fifty-seven individuals who claim they have been targeted and attacked on social media by Lackey.
On April 4 she was in court in front of Judge Grimes facing a small claims lawsuit brought by Fort Smith Trolley Museum director Bradley Martin. Martin took Lackey to small claims court in an effort to recover a $140 personal loan as well as furnishings and other items he loaned to Pay It Forward Fort Smith when they operated a food pantry located at 616 North 10th Street in Fort Smith.
Lackey and the organization was evicted from that building for failure to pay rent over an extended period of time. Martin had loaned the items, which included office desks, straight back chairs, a barbecue grill, and shelving for the warehouse area, with a caveat they would be returned to the Trolley Museum if and when Pay It Forward Fort Smith was ever without a building to call home. During the hearing on April 4, Lackey displayed disruptive, disrespectful, and argumentative behavior throughout the proceedings. She also used her cell phone to take at least two photographs of Today in Fort Smith publisher and editor Dennis McCaslin. inside the courtroom while court was in session.
One of those photographs was taken shortly after she entered the courtroom just after 10:00 a.m. She took the photograph, then exited the courtroom and posted the photograph on social media with a caption that her "stalker" was once again in the courtroom. The second photograph was taken while she sat at the defendant's table during a short recess in which judge Grimes went into her Chambers to research a point of law.
Also during the court recess she once again openly accused McCaslin of being her "sexual harasser" during a conversation with a court bailiff. Lackey contended that the items in question were a donation to the organization, while she openly admitted she owed Martin the $140 he mentioned in the lawsuit. That money was apparently a loan from Martin so Lackey and her live-in boyfriend could travel to Dallas after her stepdaughter had been in a life-threatening car wreck Lackey also told the court that none of the items that Martin sought to have returned were available since on the day of the eviction she had given out all of the furnishings to people in need because "we're a non-profit and that's what we do... give stuff to people in need." One of the Court bailiffs saw Lackey operating her cell phone when he came back into the courtroom from the recess and ask her to put the cell phone away. He then asked her if she had taken any pictures during the court session to which she replied "not really... I just like taking a lot of selfies.". When the bailiff replied he would hate to have Lackey arrested for breaking courtroom rules, she then replied that she "had all the photographs I need". Shortly after court adjourned, she also posted the second photograph she took of McCaslin from the defendant's table. When Grimes returned to the courtroom from the recess she found in favor of Martin and said since the items in question were no longer available to be returned to him that her only option was to place a monetary value on the missing items. She told Lackey in open court that none of her "testimony or so-called evidence was credible" including what appeared to be a post-dated donation agreement between Pay It Forward and Martin, and rendered a $1,790 judgment in behalf of Martin. At that point, before being dismissed from court, Lackey rose from her seat and started out of the courtroom. She was admonished by Judge Grimes and made to sit back down at the defendant's table all the while contending she had "heard everything" she needed to hear. Grimes instructed her on the proper procedure for filing an appeal in the case and then dismissed her from court. Grimes also detained Martin in the courtroom in order to give Lackey time to leave the premises. Lackey left the courtroom but remained in the parking lot and eventually Martin had to be escorted to his vehicle by one of the court bailiffs. He was verbally accosted b y Lackey as he drove away from the parking lot. Lackey's arrest on Tuesday stemmed from screenshots of the social media posts of the photographs she had taken during the court session being furnished to the court after the fact. Today in Fort Smith provided the court with the screenshots as well as a statement about the photos being taken during the court session .
Lackey's was released on the signature bond after her arrest and was set for a hearing on Apri 24 at 1:30 p.m. in State Court in Fort Smith. Also on Tuesday, Lackey's legal options took another downward turn in a continuing and ongoing case against another Fort Smith woman over contempt charges in yet another court proceeding. For almost three years, a court case has been looming between Lackey and former Pay It Forward Fort Smith board member Susanna Sisson. Sissonn blew the whistle on what she contended was an embezzlement from the organization back in 2018 but after a cursory investigation by the Fort Smith Police Department, the matter was dismissed.
Lackey then embarked on a start and stop campaign to sue Sisson for slander and defamation and that case was later dismissed with prejudice by Judge Diana Hewitt Ladd. As part of that dismissal, neither party was able to bring the matter back to the court's attention.
Lackey exploited a loophole and claimed that Sisson committed contempt by talking about the case after Judge Ladd's initial ruling. Lackey hired an attorney from northwest Arkansas that subsequently withdrew from the case and Lackey defied the court again by showing up at a February 27 hearing without representation.
That case has worked its way through the legal system and what is supposed to be the final hearing in the matter has been set for May 26th of this year. However, Lackey's attorney failed to respond to the discovery interrogatives in the contempt case and the judge gave her an additional ten days to respond based upon her obtaining an attorney.
She responded to that order with multiple pages of what she claimed was evidence of "harrasment" from McCaslin and Today in Fort Smith, not once mentioning Sisson in that response. Sisson's attorney, Sam Sexton III, then filled a motion to have that response stricken and Judge Ladd followed through on his request on Tuesday.
Essentially, that decision by the judge prohibits Lackey from presenting any evidence against Sisson in the contempt case hearing on May 26. Lackey was the original plaintiff in the proceedings and Sisson countersued, thereby putting Lackey in a precarious situation on the counter claims of contempt in the case.
Lackey is a convicted felon, having served almost three years in the Kansas prison system for forgery, theft of property and drug related charges. A detailed background check reveals she has lived at 32 different addresses in nine different states since the late 1990's and has been evicted from her personal home at least three times in the past decade.
This is a developing and ongoing story and we will release more facts as the saga continues