Friday, April 10, 1998

Harmon asks judge to shift prosecutors

LITTLE ROCK (AP) - A former prosecutor convicted of drug and racketeering charges asked a federal judge Thursday to find new prosecutors to try him on unrelated drug counts.

Former 7th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Dan Harmon alleged in a court motion that Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Stripling, assigned to prosecute the case, personally installed electronic recording devices at Harmonís girlfriend's apartment and could be called as a witness.

The motion asked that Stripling and all other prosecutors in U.S. Attorney Paula Caseyís office be disqualified.

Harmon, 52, of Benton, was indicted in October on two counts of using the telephone to further a drug transaction, one count of possessing methamphetamine with the intent to distribute and one count of attempting to distribute methamphetamine.

His trial is to begin Monday before U.S. District Judge Henry Woods, who did not rule on Harman's motion Thursday.

Casey said she would substitute another of her assistants, Pat Harris, for Stripling and proceed with the case.

"The office doesnít need to be removed from the case," she said.

Harmon was arrested Oct. 4 after he jumped into a pond as FBI agents pursued him at an apartment complex in Conway where a friend lives.

At the time, he was free on electronic monitoring while awaiting sentencing from a June criminal conviction. The terms of his supervised release barred him from leaving Saline County, where he was being allowed to go to and from a job as a grinder operator for a gravel company.

The former prosecutor for Grant, Hot Spring and Saline counties who also headed the regionís anti-drug task force was convicted June 11 of one count of racketeering, three counts of extortion and one count of marijuana distribution. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of those counts.

He was acquitted of seven other charges.

If convicted on the new indictment, Harmonís sentence could be increased up to 10 years because the alleged crimes took place while he was under court supervision.

Each of the two telephone-use counts carries a maximum penalty of eight years in prison and a $60,000 fine. The other two charges carry maximum penalties of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.