John Cole has been a Seventh Judicial District Circuit Judge for nearly two decades. He has an easy-going, authoritative, charismatic image that makes it impossible for most of his constituents to believe he is anything less than an icon of virtue. Public images can be misleading, and in the case of Cole, outright deceptive.
The worst that has been reported by mainstream media so far about Cole is that he has been one of Dan Harmon's enablers. The truth is, Cole was Harmon's puppet on a string, because Harmon was twice placed in a position to protect public fficials, including Cole, from being linked to criminal activity. Cole appointed Harmon to head the 1986 grand jury investigation of the Saline Memorial Hospital scandal that went nowhere and left jurors frustrated for not getting evidence they requested. Then Cole appointed Harmon to head the 1988 grand jury investigation of the train deaths, and even though duping jurors was old hat for Harmon, the jurors knew they were experiencing a cover-up. Cole, however, warned the jurors in both cases they would be prosecuted if they talked outside of the jury room. Cole appointed Harmon to head a 1991 grand jury that investigated Harmon's allegations against Jean Duffey, but this time the tables were turned. The jurors refused to give Harmon an indictment against Duffey. Harmon then subpoenaed Duffey to bring him all the information she had on him, Cole, and other public officials in the district. When she ignored the summons, Cole issued two felony warrants for her arrested and would not set a bond. There is no law that provides for a felony charge against a witness who refuses to answer a subpoena, but Cole did not let the law stop him.
Cole and Harmon were a team. While Harmon's life- style got him in trouble, Cole's has kept him safe. That, however, will not last. The Seventh Judicial District has come under a spotlight, and Cole will not be able to keep hiding.