Tuesday, January 13, 1998

Paid $2,500 to avoid prison term, Texan testifies in ex-drug task force chief's trial

BY LINDA FRIEDLIEB
ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE
Roger Walls former head of the 7th Judicial District Drug Task Force, appeared confident Monday during the third day of his trial on charges that he conspired with a prosecuting attorney to manufacture drugs and extort money from state prisoners.
    Testimony focused on Ernest Varnardo, who said he gave former Prosecuting Attorney Dan Harmon money to avoid prison after being stopped on the highway with drugs under the hood of his car.
    Varnardo and his girlfriend, Joycelyn McCain, both testified Monday about a trip to Arkansas where Varnardo paid $2,500 cash to Harmon in a restaurant parking lot. Holly Duvall, Harmon's ex-wife testified about being with Harmon during that meeting.
    They also said Walls and Harmon picked Varnardo up at his Fort Worth home in May 1993 and deposited him in the Grant County jail, although Varnardo's drug charges were pending in neighboring Saline County.
    Prosecutors contend that Walls conspired with Harmon in the extortion scheme - one of the five charges on which Harmon was convicted in June. They argue that Harmon and Walls hid Varnardo in the Grant County jail, and that Varnardo was released a few weeks later without an arraignment or court hearing.
    "I don't have nothing bad to say about" Walls, Varnardo testified. "The only thing I didn't like is when he came to my house and arrested me."
    Assistant U.S. Attorneys Dan Stripling and George Vena finished presenting their evidence Monday afternoon, turning over the courtroom agenda to Jack Lassiter, who is defending Walls. Testimony is likely to conclude today.

Copyright 1998, Little Rock Newspapers, Inc. All rights reserved.

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