Friday, April 18, 1997

Harmon jailed after refusing drug test

    Former Prosecuting Attorney Dan Harmon of Benton went to jail Thursday after refusing to take drug tests while awaiting trial on 11 federal felony charges, including drug offenses.
    Harmon, 52, was being held Thursday night in the Faulkner County jail in Conway.
    U.S. Magistrate Judge John F. Forster ordered Harmon's incarceration Thursday. At an arraignment Wednesday, Forster ordered special arrangements to allow Harmon to take drug tests at an independent laboratory.
    Forster said he was troubled by the constitutional implications of incarcerating a defendant who is Planning to act as his own attorney.
    Harmon contacted Forster's office Thursday to say he could not comply with the order for drug testing. Harmon contends that he is innocent and is the victim of a government harassment campaign.
    He said Wednesday that he wasn't willing to give fluids for drug tests because he feared someone would tamper with the test.
    Ordering drug tests for defendants awaiting trial on drug charges is standard policy, U.S. Attorney Paula Casey said Thursday.
    Casey said that Forster's orders Thursday are not likely to affect Harmon's May 27 trial date in Chief U.S. District Judge Stephen M. Reasoner's court.
    On Thursday, Forster also released North Little Rock attorney Bruce Eddy from acting as a backup attorney for Harmon. Forster had appointed Eddy on Wednesday, but he released him because another client of Eddy's, Ronnie Joe Knight, is likely to be a witness against Harmon.
    The judge did not appoint another attorney Thursday to take Eddy's place.
    Harmon was indicted last week on 11 felony charges. One accused him of operating the 7th Judicial District Drug Task Force as a criminal enterprise under the federal Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organization Act.
    Harmon also faces four counts of conspiracy to extort money, two each of possession of cocaine hydrochloride with intent to distribute and conspiracy to manufacture drugs, and one each of witness tampering retaliation against a witness.
    According to the indictment, Knight was a methamphetamine manufacturer and distributor who "cooked" about 118 grams of the drug and gave Harmon half of it in June 1994.
    Knight is also named in another count for allegedly conspiring with Harmon and co-defendant Roger C. Walls to manufacture methamphetamine in 1994.
    Knight is not charged with any crimes in the indictment.

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