Friday, June 6, 1997

"We used the needle,’ Harmon girlfriend testifies

After Dan Harmon testified for several hours about his innocence, a former wife and a girlfriend returned to the stand late Thursday to make more allegations about Harmon’s alleged drug use and physical abuse.
Holly DuVall, Harmon’s fourth ex-wife, testified that Harmon frequently hit her, sometimes using his fists and sometimes in front of his children.
"I couldn’t even give you a number" of times, she testified. "It went on for several years. ... A lot of times he would choke me. It wouldn’t leave a mark."
Patricia Vaughn, a girlfriend who testified she has lived with Harmon since November 1996, said Thursday that Harmon had introduced her to methamphetamines two months before they moved in together.
"We smoked it," she said. Then asked if the type of drug use changed over time, she replied, "We used the needle ... sometimes 10 or 12 times a day."
Harmon is on trial for 11 felony counts in federal District Court in Little Rock.
Vaughn was the last witness to testify in the prosecution’s rebuttal, concluding the evidence portion of the case. Harmon was the last witness in his own defense. Both DuVall and Vaughn had testified previously.
Thursday’s proceedings concluded with the shadow of a possible mistrial hanging over them. Chief U.S. District Judge Stephen M. Reasoner rejected one motion for a mistrial early in the day. That motion was based on testimony given by 18th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Paul Bosson of Hot Springs, who admitted to the jury that he had once prosecuted Harmon.
Lea Ellen Fowler, Harmon’s attorney, asked again for a mistrial Thursday afternoon after Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Stripling asked Harmon if he had been charged with kidnapping.
"He asked that question in a deliberate attempt to get bad information before the court," Fowler told Reasoner out of the jury’s hearing. "I’m going to have to ask the court for a mistrial again. For the record, I don’t think that there’s any way that the prejudicial effect of that question can be cured."
Harmon was charged with kidnapping DuVall in the spring of 1996. He was charged with four other felonies and three misdemeanors. Some of the charges related to attacks on Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter Rodney Bowers and two Saline County sheriff’s deputies.
Harmon resigned from office the following July as part of a plea agreement that included the dismissal of three felony charges involving the alleged attack on DuVall, and the lowering of two felony counts involving the deputies. Harmon pleaded guilty to those counts as misdemeanors and no contest to the charge involving the reporter.
Harmon now faces 11 federal charges, including the allegation that he ran the 7th Judicial District's prosecuting attorney’s office as a corrupt organization in violation of a federal law prohibiting racketeering.
Harmon also was indicted on two counts of possession with the intent to distribute cocaine hydrochloride, four counts of conspiracy to extort money, three of conspiracy to manufacture drugs, one of witness tampering and one of retaliation against a witness, Bowers.
The attorneys in the federal case are to meet today to discuss jury instructions and other legal matters. The jury plans to return Monday to hear closing arguments and instructions from the judge before retiring to deliberate on the charges.
On Thursday, Harmon dominated the day’s testimony, denying any illicit activity, saying that he never received "one dime" as a bribe and alleging that someone had made up the prosecution witnesses' stories.
"I think Mr. [Ernest] Varnardo and Miss DuVall probably had a lot of help in making up their stories," Harmon said. "I’m not saying who made the story up, Mr. Stripling. I am saying it is not true." Varnardo is one of the people Harmon is accused of extorting money from in return for keeping his case out of state court.
Harmon specifically denied each of the 11 federal charges.
"I never received any money from anyone. Period," Harmon testified when asked about one of the extortion charges. "Freddie McCaslin and LaJean O’Brien never came to my office and negotiated anything in the presence of anybody."
Both McCaslin and O’Brien testified earlier this week about paying Harmon and defense attorney Bill Murphy money to get out of going to court on drug charges.
Harmon also extended his protection to his co-defendants, Murphy and Sheridan businessman Roger Walls, who are scheduled for trial in January.
"Roger Walls is as honest and straight a person as I’ve ever met in my life," Harmon testified at one point. "Roger would not ever be involved with drugs. Roger hated drugs."
Harmon did admit to attacking Bowers, the reporter.
"I grabbed him. I shoved him out the door. There was a struggle. Some folks from the office, including my sister, came and got me off him," Harmon said. "I’m sorry it happened. I pled guilty in state court ... It had nothing to do with retaliation. It had to do with two people crossing paths three or four times and one of them being extremely rude."

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