Tuesday, January 6, 1998
Harmonís jail time is dependent on how sentencing is interpreted
BY LINDA FRIEDLIEB
The length of former Prosecuting
Attorney Dan Harmonís sentence
could hinge on whether he
used threats to extort money from
criminals or merely accepted
bribes from individuals seeking to
The answer could mean a difference
of several years behind bars
for Harmon, convicted in June of
racketeering, possession of marijuana
with the intent to distribute
and three counts of extortion.
At a hearing Monday, Chief U.S.
District Judge Stephen M. Reasoner
listened to Assistant U.S. Attorney
George Vena and Harmonís attorney,
Lea Ellen Fowler, debate the
merits of using two different sentencing
guidelines to decide how
long the former prosecutor will
spend in federal prison. Reasoner
then asked them to turn in written
briefs on the topic by Jan. 30.
"Thereís no question that the
threat to send someone to a penitentiary
is a serious threat," Reasoner
said, before noting that Harman's
victims were criminals who
should have spent time in jail.
"But we donít have a case of innocent
people being threatened."
Using threats to extort money
carries stiffer penalties than
bribery of a public official, though
none of the lawyers said exactly
what the difference would be.
When a person is convicted under a
particular statute, the federal sentencing
guidelines look at actual
conduct to make recommendations
to judges in sentencing matters.
Vena argued that Harmon used
more than just the threat of prosecution
over money and
"The threat ...
was not only incarceration
that they would
be maxed out,
that they would
get the most severe
Fowler contested those assertions,
saying that the testimony
from Harmonís three-week trial did
not back up the prosecutionís argument.
"Each of these people has testified
that if they paid the money
and left the state, then they would
have no consequences," she said.
In addition to sentencing guide-
lines, Reasoner listened to evidence
Monday about Harmonís
Oct. 4 arrest and formally revoked
the former prosecutorís supervised
release, although Harmon
has been in jail since the FBI took
him into custody.
The arrest spawned four new
federal charges in a case pending
before U.S. District Judge Henry
Woods. Fowler said Monday that
the new case was in a holding pattern
while the attorneys finished
off the racketeering case.
In a related case Monday, Reasoner
dismissed a racketeering
charge alleging that the former head
of the 7th Judicial District drug task
force had conspired with Harmon to
run a criminal enterprise.
The move, which reflected Assistant
U.S. Attorney Dan Stripling
Striplingís request, leaves Roger
Walls facing three rather than four
charges when his trial begins
Wednesday in federal court.
Walls still has to fight allegations
that he conspired to manufacture
drugs and two charges of
conspiring to extort money. The
manufacturing charge carries a
maximum penalty of 20 years in
prison and a $1 million fine. The
extortion charges also could lead
to 20 years in prison, but only a
Copyright 1997, Little Rock Newspapers, Inc. All rights reserved.