Tuesday, October 7, 1997

Leap in lake lands Harmon back in jail

         Former Prosecuting Attorney Dan Harmon, arrested after leaping into a lake at an apartment complex, is back in jail. He appeared Monday in federal court in Little Rock on a new charge alleging that he attempted to possess with the intent to distribute methamphetamine.
       Harmon has been in the Pulaski County jail since Saturday morning when he was arrested by FBI agents at the Conway apartment complex where a girlfriend, Patricia Vaughn, lives. The FBI contends that Harmon and Vaughn had several discussions about methamphetamine and that Harmon attempted to bring her some Saturday morning.
       Harmon will remain in custody until at least Friday when U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Jones will hold a hearing to discuss probable cause and whether Harmon should continue to be incarcerated.
       In a hallway at the federal courthouse, Harmon did not answer questions Monday. During the hearing, wearing orange prison garb, he attempted to enter an innocent plea through temporary attorney Greg Bryant but was told that it was not the proper time.
       The arrest came while Harmon was on home detention with electronic monitoring after he was convicted in June on five of 12 felony charges. No sentencing date for those convictions has been set. Harmon lives in Benton and did not have permission to travel to Conway, court papers said.
       U.S. Attorney Paula Casey indicated Monday that today her office will file a motion to revoke Harmon's release in his earlier case. Harmon was convicted of using his prosecuting attorney's office as an "illegal racket," three counts of extortion and one count of possession with the intent to distribute marijuana.
       Harmon, 52, was prosecuting attorney for the 7th Judicial District of Saline, Hot Spring and Grant counties from 1990 96. He also held that office for about two years a decade earlier.
       Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Stripling had asked for Harmon's detention after the jury verdict, saying he posed a threat to witnesses. But Chief U.S. District Judge Stephen M. Reasoner placed Harmon on home detention with electronic monitoring.
       As part of his release in that case, Harmon is supposed to pass regular drug screens and remain at home, except while working at Saline Crushing & Excavation in Benton.
       Monday's charge was based on an affidavit written by FBI Special Agent Cheryl Schaller, who wrote that Vaughn and Harmon began a relationship in August 1996 that continued "sporadically" until September 1997. Schaller wrote that Harmon supplied Vaughn with methamphetamine several times.
       Harmon and Vaughn had many conversations during the last week of September and first week of October "regarding Harmon obtaining methamphetamine for them to use," the affidavit says. Six of those conversations were recorded.
       "While not using the word methamphetamine, in those recorded conversations Harmon tells Vaughn of his efforts to obtain methamphetamine for them to use together," Schaller wrote. In the last conversation, the affidavit says, Harmon tells Vaughn he would visit her Saturday about 7 a.m.
       The FBI obtained a search warrant and went to Vaughn's Conway apartment complex that day.
       "After Harmon parked near Vaughn's apartment, an FBI agent approached Harmon and identified himself. Harmon bolted," the affidavit says. "Harmon, while being chased by FBI agents, threw a tape onto the ground as he ran. Running with his hand in his pocket, he ran to a lake located on the apartment complex grounds. Chased by FBI agents, Harmon dived into the lake.
       "While in the lake, FBI agents observed Harmon up to his neck in water moving about in the water," the affidavit says. "After 10 to 15 seconds, Harmon stood in the water which was waist deep."
       Harmon left the lake and was searched by FBI agents, but no methamphetamine was found, the affidavit methamphetamine is water soluble. A pen wrapped in aluminum foil was found on Harmon and could have been used as a pipe, the affidavit says.
       The FBI also searched Harmon's vehicle and found a bottle of urine, the affidavit says.
       Casey confirmed that information in the case will be presented to a federal grand jury when it meets next week
       Monday, Jones appointed Little Rock attorney Lea Ellen Fowler to represent Harmon, although she was not present at the hearing. Fowler represented Harmon in the racketeering case this summer. She could not be reached for comment Monday.
       During Harmon's trial, Vaughn was one of several witnesses who testified against Harmon. Vaughn testified that Harmon introduced her to methamphetamine.
       "We smoked it," she testified. When asked if the type of drug use changed over time, she replied, "We used the needle ... sometimes 10 or 12 times a day."
       The maximum penalties for each of the five charges on which Harmon was convicted is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentences are governed by the federal sentencing guidelines. Harmon maintains that he is innocent of the charges and plans to appeal after his sentencing.

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