Tuesday, June 3, 1997

Harmon judge not sold on witness-tampering

LINDA FRIEDLIEB
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Facing federal drug charges in 1994, Shelton Corley began cooperating with a federal investigation, including giving information about then-Prosecuting Attorney Dan Harmon to a federal grand jury.
Then he stopped.
Now Harmon is charged with persuading Corley -- who also allegedly supplied Harmon with drugs -- to end his cooperation. Today, Chief U.S. District Judge Stephen M. Reasoner will decide whether to allow Assistant U.S. Attorney Pat Harris to testify about the Corley situation or dismiss the charge altogether.
Witness-tampering is one of 11 federal felony charges Harmon faces. The others involve drugs, extortion and operating the 7th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney's office as a corrupt organization in violation of the federal Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act.
The prosecution is expected to complete its case today, one week into the trial.
Monday, Reasoner expressed doubts regarding the witness-tampering charge. He had listened to Harris give a summary of his testimony under oath but outside the jury's presence and reviewed transcripts of testimony by Harmon's former wife, Holly DuVall, last week on the relationship between Corley and Harmon.
"If you don't come up with something by 9:15 [today] ... without testimony or proof that Mr. Harmon knew that Mr. Corley was cooperating or testifying before the grand jury, I'm not going to let Mr. Harris testify,'' Reasoner told Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Stripling, one of two prosecutors on the case.
Corley was arrested in the summer of 1994 for possessing about 106 marijuana plants. A federal grand jury later indicted Corley after a search of his house yielded more drugs and weapons.
Corley agreed to plead guilty to possession with the intent to distribute marijuana and cooperate with federal investigators in exchange for dismissal of other charges and a recommendation for a reduced sentence.
Corley made statements to investigators and, according to Harmon's indictment, gave testimony before a federal grand jury in February 1995 that implicated Harmon.
Then Corley backed out of the plea agreement, and Lea Ellen Fowler, Harmon's attorney, said in court that Corley recanted his testimony in a later grand jury appearance.
Prosecutors contend Harmon knew about Corley's cooperation and arranged for him to take a 10-year state prison term in order to keep federal investigators away. State sentences allow early release, and the prosecution contends Harmon promised Corley minimal time behind bars and admittance to a program that would keep him out of the general prison population.
"Dan Harmon told me he was -- he heard they was going to give me five years for them little old plants -- and he was going to help me out,'' Corley testified in April 1996 before the grand jury, according to a transcript of the proceedings.
"I gave Dan Harmon $15,000. They said that my girlfriend had sold an eight-ball of methamphetamine to somebody and they had it on tape,'' Corley continued. "And I gave $15,000 for my girlfriend. And then they -- he -- got me to plead guilty to it and give me 10, told me he was going to give me 10 years, but I never was going to go to the penitentiary. My number would never come up.''
Neither Corley nor Paul Johnson, Corley's former attorney, are on Stripling's witness list. Stripling declined to comment on that Monday, but Reasoner suggested in court that Johnson's testimony would be prevented by attorney-client privilege.
But Fowler contends there is no proof her client knew about Corley's cooperation when Harmon arranged for Corley to plead guilty to a 10-year sentence in state court.
"We're getting into more than inference here. We're getting into speculation, rumor,'' she said. "There's no witness who's going to come into here and say Mr. Harmon was aware.''
Monday, as the attorneys argued about the witness-tampering charge, other witnesses testified against Harmon. One was Kay LaJean O'Brien, who told of paying large "fines'' through defense attorney Bill Murphy to avoid going to court on drug charges

Copyright 1997, Little Rock Newspapers, Inc. All rights reserved.

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