Tuesday, April 14, 1998

Harmon Convicted on 4 drug charges; trial takes just 1 day

Girlfriend: Former prosecutor planned drug, sex party with her, female friend


Dan Harmon was itching for Oct. 4, 199 7, to arrive, his girlfriend testified Monday in federal court.

Harmon planned to bring drugs and pornography tapes so the two could do the drugs and have sex with a third woman, prosecutors said. But when he drove to his girlfriends Conway apartment, the FBI was waiting.

Harmon was convicted Monday on four drug-related counts stemming from his Oct.. 4 arrest. The conviction concluded a one-day jury trial before U.S. District Judge Henry Woods.

Harmon, 53, former prosecuting attorney for Saline, Grant and Hot Spring counties, was found guilty of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, attempting to distribute methamphetamine and two counts of using a telephone to commit a controlled substance.

"He thinks he's going to have sex and do drugs," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Pat Harris. "He thinks he's died and gone to heaven. He's a happy dude."

But Harmon's attorney, Lea Ellen Fowler, argued the FBI found no drugs; that the girlfriend, Patricia Vaughn, is a liar; and that her client never mentioned drugs on the telephone.

"She talks about ... getting more [pornographic] movies, but I challenge you to listen to the tapes to see whether Mr. Harmon ever arranges a drug transaction," Fowler said.

Harmon sat with a disgusted look during the trial. Before testimony, he hugged his sister, Donna Wright, before an officer ordered the two apart. After testifying, Harmon, in custody since the October arrest, asked his sister to buy him a Coke and a Snickers bar.

"I haven't had one of those in six months," he said.

At the time of the October incident in Faulkner County, Harmon was on probation for a June 1997 conviction on racketeering, conspiracy to commit extortion and conspiracy to distribute drugs. He was on supervised release pending sentencing and was only supposed to be at home, work or church; he was ordered not to leave Saline County.

Vaughn, 25, testified she had dated Harmon since September 1996. They had met earlier that year during his failed campaign for Saline County sheriff. Soon after they began dating, Harmon introduced her to methamphetamine, which they smoked 20 times in one weekend, she said.

She said the drug, which comes in powder form and can be inhaled, eaten or injected, increased her energy and that she and Harmon enjoyed sex more when using the drug. Not using the drug made her want more, killed her spirit and made her paranoid, she said. They moved in together in November 1996. Then Harmon said they needed to stop using drugs, she said, so he made her enter Bridgeway Hospital, a rehabilitation clinic in North Little Rock.

When she left after four days, Harmon continued using methamphetamine.

They briefly broke up three months later, but Harmon continued supplying her with the drug, she testified. Later Vaughn had a court date for a custody dispute with her ex-husband. She said Harmon instructed her to lie about using drugs "or the FBI would take my child away."

They continued dating until September, when her friends confronted her about her drug use. Vaughn said she then called FBI agent Cheryl Schaller, whom she knew from an earlier trial involving Harmon where she had testified about using drugs with Harmon.

Agents tape-recorded phone conversations between Vaughn and Harmon on Oct. 2 and 3,1997. Her voice is clear on the recordings, but his is barely audible. Prosecutors gave jurors transcripts of the conversations.

During the Oct. 2 call, Vaughn tells Harmon she "needs some s***." Harmon responds: "Shut up, I'll talk to you later."

On Oct. 3, Harmon again becomes upset when his girlfriend brings up drugs.

"No use taking chances," he said.

Vaughn said Harmon asked her to get some drugs from a neighbor but she declined.

"He wanted us to have plenty of dope," she said. "He thought he was going to get to have sex with me and my friend."

The prosecution then played an answering machine message to Vaughn from Harmon: "This is your man. Everything is worked out. See you in the morning."

FBI agents Schaller and Troy Shenevert testified they approached Harmon after he parked his car at Vaughn's apartment in Conway the next morning. They said Harmon hesitated, then ran to a pond, dove in and stood up to his neck in water "fidgeting."

After he was arrested, agents found no methamphetamine, which dissolves in water. However, a state chemist testified that traces of the drug were found on a piece of tinfoil in his pocket. Vaughn said to smoke the drug, it is placed on foil and lit, allowing the smoke to be inhaled through an empty pen. An ink pen was also found in Harmon's pocket.

"This man is pretty smart," Harris said, alleging Harmon dropped the drug in the water. Fowler argued Vaughn's word can't be trusted because she lied during the custody hearing. FBI agents said they granted her immunity from prosecution on drug charges and would ask state prosecutors not to charge her with perjury from the custody hearing. No sentencing date was set for Harmon.