Wednesday, June 4, 1997
Witnesses say Harmon law-abiding, no drug user
Dan Harmon is a caring person who never lies or does drugs,
witnesses testified Tuesday as the former prosecuting attorney's
defense kicked off an effort to portray Harmon as the victim of
vindictive criminals and prosecutors.
"He was always very cordial in speaking with me, very
polite,'' testified Deanne Balisterri, who works in the
prosecuting attorney's office as a victim witness and child abuse
coordinator. "It was always, 'Good morning,' and, 'How are you?'
Lea Ellen Fowler, Harmon's attorney, fashioned her defense
Monday around positive images of her client as a well-dressed,
well-mannered man who did not fit the characteristics of those
who abuse methamphetamines. She would not comment on whether
Harmon would testify on his own behalf.
"Mr. Harmon has always been a very law-abiding citizen. ...
My son was kidnapped, and Mr. Harmon helped me with that,'' said
Henry Efird, a former 7th Judicial District Drug Task Force agent
who broke into tears during his testimony. "It is really hard to
see people of this caliber accusing a man who is so good.''
Harmon faces 11 charges related to his tenure as prosecuting
attorney in Benton in the early 1990s. He is accused of
possession of, distribution of and an attempt to manufacture
drugs; repeated attempts to extort money from accused criminals
in his jurisdiction; theft of evidence; witness tampering; and
retaliation against Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter Rodney
Over the past week, witnesses -- many with favorable plea
agreements or offers of immunity in exchange for their
testimonies -- painted Harmon as a drug addict who routinely did
business with the criminals he was supposed to be prosecuting.
Chief U.S. District Judge Stephen M. Reasoner on Tuesday
refused to dismiss the 11 counts against Harmon. But the judge
reserved the right to dismiss three of the charges at a later
point in the trial.
One of those charges, involving allegations Harmon tried to
prevent Shelton Corley from cooperating with the federal
government, had been the subject of much debate Monday. The
defense contested whether a jury could be allowed to make
inferences from testimony and whether Assistant U.S. Attorney Pat
Harris would be allowed to testify regarding the charge.
On Tuesday, after reading a decision from the 7th U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals, Reasoner allowed Harris' testimony and
reserved judgment on Fowler's request to dismiss the charge.
In the appeals court case, a charge of witness tampering was
allowed to proceed in a case in which a witness' mother was shot
in the leg in Chicago. The charge was allowed to go to the jury
even though there was no direct evidence the shooting was related
to the witness's testimony.
In 1994, after being arrested with more than 100 marijuana
plants, Corley agreed to plead guilty to a federal drug charge
and to cooperate with prosecutors in several investigations,
including Harmon's. Corley subsequently made statements to
federal investigators and testified before a grand jury.
But the federal charge against Corley was dropped after
Harmon arranged for him to plead guilty to a probation revocation
and another state charge in exchange for a 10-year state prison
Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Stripling, who is prosecuting
Harmon, argued that Harmon arranged the state prison sentence
with a promise that Corley would be placed in a special program
and released after serving minimal time to get federal
investigators away from Corley.
Harris' testimony on the witness-tampering charge followed
that of two prosecution witnesses related to drug charges against
Copyright 1997, Little Rock Newspapers, Inc. All rights reserved.