Friday, June 18, 1999
U.S. circuit judges panel weighing
A panel of three judges in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals in St. Louis is considering, without oral
arguments, former Prosecuting Attorney Dan Harmon's appeal
of extortion, racketeering and drug convictions.
Its decision in the case will be arrived at on the
basis of briefs submitted by attorneys from both sides,
according to U.S. Attorney Paula Casey.
Four federal drug-related convictions against Harmon
were affirmed by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court in January. The
court was to hear arguments today in an appeal of earlier
charges -- two counts of racketeering, one count of
conspiring to commit extortion and one count of conspiring
to distribute marijuana -- but set aside arguments about
two weeks ago.
Harmon was convicted in June on those five charges and
was sentenced to eight years in prison. A federal judge
also ordered him to pay $16,000 in restitution to victims
of two extortion schemes and a $25,000 fine.
Harmon's attorney, Lea Ellen Fowler, contended in
briefs submitted in January that there was not enough
evidence to convict Harmon of racketeering or extortion.
She also argued that anyone who testified against
Harmon in exchange for a plea bargain was in violation of
the Arkansas Rules of Professional Conduct. The rules
prohibit lawyers from offering or promising "anything of
value for the testimony under oath."
"The government's case against Dan Harmon was presented
through it's conventional parade of convicted felons, drug
offenders and career criminals," she wrote in a brief filed
in December 1998. The racketeering charge related to his
using his office as 7th Judicial District prosecuting
attorney as an illegal crime organization to obtain money
The first extortion charge dealt with Harmon demanding
$50,000 from drug dealers Kay LaJean O'Brien and Freddie
McCaslin in exchange for the dismissal of drug charges
The second charge related to the case of Ernest
Varnado, a Texan arrested on drug possession charges as he
traveled through the 7th Judicial District. Harmon and
Roger Walls, former head of the district's drug task force,
picked up Varnado at his Fort Worth home and jailed him in
Arkansas. They received a cash payment later and demanded
Walls was convicted on this charge in January 1998.
The third extortion charge was based on Harmon's
demanding $10,000 from another drug defendant, Patrick
Davis of Indiana. Davis' wife, Tina, testified during the
trial in May 1998 that she got the money from her mother
and brought it to Arkansas where Harmon told her she would
either have to give him more money or have sex with him.
The drug charge Harmon is appealing involved the sale
of 117 pounds of marijuana discovered in a car during a
In January, the 8th Circuit Court upheld four other
drug-related convictions against Harmon, stemming from his
arrest October 1997 near his girlfriend's Conway apartment
while he was on supervised release with electronic
monitoring and awaiting sentencing for the convictions now
Harmon, who was supposed to stay in Saline County while
released, jumped into a pond when FBI agents attempted to
arrest him. He was convicted in April 1998 of possession
with intent to distribute methamphetamine, attempting to
distribute methamphetamine and two counts of using a
telephone in a drug transaction.
As prosecuting attorney, Harmon was responsible for
Saline, Grant and Hot Spring counties in 1979 and 1980 and
again from 1991 until 1996 when he was forced to resign in
a plea agreement resolving a set of state charges.
Copyright © 1999, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc. All