The Bare Facts About Dan Harmon and the “Train Deaths” in Chronological Order
By: Jean Duffey
- August 23, 1987 – The bodies of Kevin Ives, 17, and Don Henry, 16, were run over and mutilated by a passing train in Saline County, Arkansas. The state’s medical examiner, Fahmy Malak, ruled the deaths accidental in spite of evidence to the contrary.
- February, 1988 – Failing to get anything accomplished through government agencies, the parents took advantage of the media’s interest in the case, and held a press conference to demand a new autopsy. Dan Harmon, who had no official capacity at the time, offered to help the parents.
- April, 1988 – Harmon was appointed by Circuit Judge John Cole to head a county grand jury investigation, which ruled the deaths homicides after hearing the evidence of an out-of-state medical examiner. The media made Harmon a folk hero, and even though several witnesses began turning up dead during his investigation, neither Linda Ives nor the media were suspicious of Harmon.
- March, 1990 – I became administrator of the district’s drug task force and immediately began to link Harmon and other public officials to illegal drug activity. We took our evidence to Assistant U.S. Attorney, Bob Govar, who was heading a federal grand jury investigation of public official corruption in Saline County.
- June, 1990 – Harmon became the district’s prosecutor-elect and used his powerful media friends to launched a smear campaign against me.
- November, 1990 – I was professionally destroyed and my task force was dismantled, but we continued to investigate until we linked the murders of Kevin and Don to a large drug operation involving public officials.
- December, 1990 – I took the evidence my task force developed to U.S. Attorney Chuck Banks, who promised he would carry on our investigation. Instead, Banks ousted Govar and shut down the grand jury probe of Saline County public officials.
- January, 1991 – Harmon took office as the district’s prosecutor and subpoenaed me to bring him all the evidence I had against him and other public officials. To protect witnesses, I ignored the subpoena, and Judge Cole issued a felony warrant for my arrest, even though “avoiding service” is a misdemeanor.
- February, 1991 – I received death threats and left the state to wait for the promised federal indictments against Harmon and other public officials, which would clear my name.
- June, 1991 – Chuck Banks held a press conference, cleared all Saline County public officials, and insinuated the grand jury had made the decision. Three grand jurors got word to me they were unanimously ready to indict Harmon and others but were sent home without being allowed to vote. Destroyed and defeated, my husband and I moved our family to Texas.
- January, 1994 – The FBI opened their own “train deaths” investigation after a witness went to Linda Ives claiming he saw Dan Harmon on the tracks with Kevin and Don the night they were murdered. The witness was put into protective custody, passed a polygraph test, and corroborated evidence the FBI told Linda they already had.
- March, 1994 – The FBI persuaded me to get involved again by telling me they had recommended Chuck Banks be charged with obstruction of justice for shutting down the 1990 federal grand jury.
- June, 1994 – Linda and I met and began sharing information with each other, the FBI, and the many investigative reporters who were by then interested in Arkansas scandals. The connection between the murders and Mena began to develop.
- January, 1995 – I predicted the FBI investigation was going to be shut down ,because the Mena connection would expose the CIA’s involvement.
- November, 1995 – FBI Special Agent Bill Temple told Linda and Larry Ives they should consider that there was no crime committed against their son. Linda and I decided to declare war against our government and go public.
- March, 1996 – Our video, Obstruction of Justice, was released, and we set up the Kevin Ives Civil Justice Foundation to raise money for a civil suit.
- November, 1996 – Dan Harmon’s now ex-wife was caught out of Harmon’s jurisdiction with cocaine packages from the district’s evidence locker. A local paper ran the story and the feds put on a big show, raiding Harmon’s office and confiscating court records.
- April, 1997 – After a year and a half of promises that Harmon and other public officials were being thoroughly and seriously investigated, Harmon was indicted on what appeared at first glance to be a significant case. Although Linda and I had repeatedly predicted that the investigation would be “1990 All Over Again,” we were thrilled to be wrong, but as it has turned out, we weren’t.
- June, 1997 – Harmon’s indictment and trial has been a sham. No evidence against Harmon was used that would expose Chuck Banks or Mena, so the government is left with a pathetically weak case.
more on dan harmon
A Study in Conspiracy
by Jean Duffey
First, there were years of confusion:
Those of us who profess a connection between the “train deaths” and our federal government realize the difficulty average folks have believing there could be such a conspiracy between local and federal officials. It’s nearly impossible to imagine such a notion, which makes it easy for mainstream media to scoff at the mere suggestion.
The public’s skepticism is understandable. When U.S. Attorney Chuck Banks held a press conference in June of 1991, to clear Dan Harmon and all other Saline County public officials “of drug-related public misconduct and other forms of wrongdoing,” (Arkansas Gazette, June 28, 1991) I knew Banks was covering up serious crimes, but I didn’t suspect a conspiracy.
There were immediate rumors of blackmail based on a visit Harmon made to Banks with a video tape tucked under his arm. A few years prior to this visit, Harmon headed a county grand jury investigation involving a Saline County gambling house protected by former Sheriff James Steed. Prostitutes were paid to lure public officials into sexual encounters which were clandestinely captured on film, and if such a film of Banks existed, Harmon would certainly have access to it. Putting two and two together, a plausible explanation of Banks’ blatant obstruction of justice was spawned.
I was not and still am not convinced, however, a two-year federal investigation was shut down because Banks was being blackmailed. Harmon’s visit with Banks was indeed before Banks publicly proclaimed all Saline County free of corruption, but it was after Banks had already begun to dismantle the grand jury investigation. The wheels were already in motion to thwart any public official indictments. It seemed to me an attempt to blackmail Banks would have to be lower-keyed, and the facts are supportive of my supposition.
Prior to his walking into Banks’ office with the alleged video tape, Harmon was facing seven felony counts of income tax evasion. After leaving Banks’ office without the alleged video tape, he was facing three misdemeanor counts of failure to file tax returns. Blackmailing Banks to reduce charges of tax improprieties is believable, but blackmailing a U.S. Attorney to ignore two years of accumulated evidence against a number of public officials is simply not believable.
Shutting down a federal grand jury which wanted to indict several public officials was a very large-scale obstruction of justice, and Banks could not have done that on his own. Banks sent the 1990 jurors home at the end of their term with a warning they would be indicted if they spoke about what went on during their service. This was according to three grand jurors who were so outraged at Banks they wanted me to know they were unanimously ready to indict Dan Harmon and several other public officials. Something more than a blackmail tape was involved.
Still, I didn’t think in terms of a conspiracy, even though Banks, a republican- appointed U.S. Attorney, was protecting a bunch of democrats holding county offices. To justify his actions, Banks used a media smear campaign Harmon had contrived against me, which had completely discredited me professionally by the end of 1990. Although Banks knew the information my drug task force had provided the grand jury was credible, he used my destroyed reputation as the reason he concluded the allegations against Saline County officials “were based on rumors and innuendo.” (Arkansas Gazette, June 28, 1991) The truth is, even if all the evidence offered by my drug task force was discounted, Assistant U.S. Attorney Bob Govar had independently accumulated enough evidence during his two-year investigation of Saline County corruption to support indictments. In spite of the amassed evidence, Banks announced , “we found no evidence of any drug-related misconduct by public officials in Saline County.” (Benton Courier, June 27, 1991)
I was dumbstruck by the announcement and bewildered when I remembered Chris Day, the Saline County Arkansas Gazette reporter, had given me prior warning. A source Chris would not name told him Banks was going to clear Harmon and all other Saline County officials in exchange for a federal judgeship nomination. I immediately called Bob Govar with Chris’s prediction. Bob said, “That’s nonsense. Banks has been wanting a nomination for years, but it’s just not going to happen.” Bob was wrong. Several months were allowed to pass after Banks publicly cleansed Saline County, then Banks received his federal judgeship nomination from President George Bush.* That’s right – from George Bush. Some kind of conspiracy plot was the only explanation, but it was just too ridiculous to consider, so I didn’t.
Professionally destroyed, dodging two bogus felony warrants, and fearing for my safety, my husband and I retreated from the controversy and lived quietly as school teachers in Pasadena, Texas. Then, in March of 1994, the FBI persuaded me to get involved again. An eye witness had come forward and passed an FBI polygraph test placing Dan Harmon on the tracks with Kevin Ives and Don Henry the night they were murdered back in 1987. This prompted the FBI to open it’s own investigation of the “train deaths” and to ask for my assistance. It was during that eighteen-month-long FBI investigation the conspiracy exposed itself.
Linda Ives and I began communicating for the first time. We shared information with each other and with the FBI. I also met Saline County Sheriff Investigator John Brown, who told me about a pilot he had interviewed who claimed to have flown a drug drop to the location where Kevin and Don were murdered. Additionally, Arkansas had become the focus of national interest by now, and many investigative reporters were anxious to uncover information about Clinton. The “train deaths” case certainly had connections to Clinton via Fahmy Malak, which initially piqued the interests of right-wingers. Then, as Linda and I shared information with anyone and everyone who would listen, the mystery unraveled, and the FBI verified much of what we now know.
Now, there was understanding:
Local law enforcement officers protected a major drug-drop site in Saline County that was part of the Mena Airport drug smuggling operation set up in the early 1980’s by the notorious drug smuggler, Barry Seal. By the mid-1980’s, CIA operatives were using Mena to help finance their covert support of the Nicaraguan Contras. (See the Mena page.) In spite of overwhelming evidence, Mena’s connection to a CIA operation or to a government-protected drug operation has been discounted or ignored by mainstream media. Even though Seal smuggled drugs in a cargo plane given to him by the CIA, and even though that plane was shot down over Nicaragua with a load of weapons, the media reports and supports the official CIA position of denial.
I realize now, my drug task force was dismantled because we were getting too close to solving the “train deaths.” We learned Kevin and Don were murdered because they witnessed a drug and/or money drop from an airplane. My task force knew public officials were actively involved in covering up the murders, but we were shut down before we connected the local activity to Mena. We were not allowed to progress our investigation any further. Harmon, a popular public figure at that time, lead a brutal campaign to discredit me; dirty public officials supported Harmon’s efforts; the media thrived for months on writing unsubstantiated allegations against me and my task force; and Chuck Banks used me as a scapegoat to justify shutting down the 1990 federal grand jury inquiry.
When I realized the catalyst for the thwarting of every investigation of the “train deaths” had been the Mena connection, I warned Phyllis Cournan, the agent in charge of the FBI investigation. I told her Kevin and Don’s killers would be indicted only if the investigation stayed away from Mena, but I was fooling myself to think that was possible. The Mena connection must eventually be made. By then, there had been six “train deaths” investigations that had gone nowhere, and in November of 1995, the FBI investigation became number seven. (See the FBI page.) The Mena connection again caused the rug to be yanked out from under an investigation which, in turn, is the logic behind a conspiracy premise.
A problem with swallowing any conspiracy theory is the murky connections. However, in this case, the evidence of a conspiracy between Mena CIA operatives and Saline County public official thugs brings the big picture into focus. It is important to understand all those involved did not sit around a conference table and discuss how to pull off a conspiracy. To the contrary, I have spoken to several ex-CIA operatives and a CIA contract pilot who occasionally flew the Saline County drop. They all explain that any one person in an operation knows only what is necessary for a specific assignment. This fits with statements made by some of the witnesses claiming to have picked up drugs from the tracks. They were told the drugs were coming up from Louisiana by train, which I believe was deliberate misinformation. Yet, it is the role of Dan Harmon in this story that is most convincing there was and is a multi-level, bi-partisan conspiracy.
My drug task force provided substantial evidence of Harmon’s involvement in illegal drug activity to the 1990 federal grand jury. Harmon countered with a smear campaign discrediting me and my task force. I was the good guy, and Harmon was the bad guy; but I was abandoned, and Harmon was supported. At the time, I didn’t know the cause of Harmon’s muscle, but the effect was clear – Banks protected Harmon from a multi-count indictment by a federal grand jury. From a larger perspective – Democratic District Prosecutor Dan Harmon was cleared by Republican U.S. Attorney Chuck Banks who was rewarded with a federal judgeship nomination by Republican President George Bush who is a former CIA Director.
Sounds pretty wild, but I challenge anyone to come up with any other explanation that makes half good sense for the support and protection Dan Harmon has received from low- to high-ranking public officials in spite of his years of various and numerous well-publicized criminal activity.
Now, there is frustration mixed with hope:
Like the adage, Linda and I are all dressed up with no place to go. We have enough evidence to have Dan Harmon and several other public officials indicted for covering up the murders of Kevin and Don, but we have no place to take it. We have enough evidence to connect the murders to CIA-Mena drug smuggling, but mainstream media won’t listen. We have evidence to warrant a Congressional investigation of a conspiracy among Republicans and Democrats to cover-up the crimes of Mena, but a Republican Congress won’t investigate a Republican scandal.
We have no official authority, we have no political clout, and we have no media influence, and we have no money, but we appear to be having an effect. Dan Harmon went down in flames, and three political candidates from his district, who publicly supported him through the years faced surprising defeats on November 5.
The odds are overwhelmingly against us, but we have hope and we have the Internet. Maybe we have all we need.
*Note: Chuck Banks was scheduled for a confirmation hearing in late November of 1992, but all Bush nominations were withdrawn immediately after Clinton won the election. Banks never received his judgeship. Sometimes there is justice. Banks, however, managed this year to get himself appointed head of the Pulaski County Republican Party. Either memories are short, or the Republicans of Pulaski County don’t care if their leader is dirty.
Thursday, June 12, 1997
Miracles do happen!
By Linda Ives
Harmon’s jury saw through the strengths and weaknesses of the lawyers, and in spite of presenting a case the government almost deserved to lose, Harmon was convicted on five counts; racketeering, three extortion conspiracies, and one marijuana distribution charge. Although the counts carry a total of 100 years, under federal sentencing guidelines he may get as few as 10.
There is much celebration around the state tonight for those who have followed Harmon’s escapades in the press and are familiar with Kevin and Don’s murders. For me, the convictions are bitter-sweet. Harmon should have been tried for the murders of Kevin and Don, but protecting a crony was more important than bringing a killer to justice. To include Kevin and Don’s murders or any of the almost identical cases prior to 1991 would expose the criminal actions of former U.S. Attorney Chuck Banks who cleared Harmon and other public officials in Saline County of all “wrong-doing” in June, 1991. In my opinion, and more importantly, in Jean’s (a former prosecutor herself), the evidence they have in Kevin’s and Don’s murder is more compelling than any evidence they presented in the crimes he was convicted of.
I have known for over two years that the government is not going to do its’ job. Jean Duffey and I will spend this summer preparing a civil lawsuit. Apparently, a civil court is the only court of law that will ever hear Kevin and Don’s case.
June 28, 1996
That Sleazy Harmon Deal
By Mara Levritt
A few months ago, after one of Dan Harmon’s run-ins with the law. I was talking about him with another prosecutor. “Do you think this will bring him down?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” the prosecutor said. “Nothing’s touched him yet. Looks to me like he might be bullet-proof.”
I thought about that conversation last week after word came down about the plea bargain that was worked out in the Harmon case. Basically, the state agreed to drop all five felony charges, including one each for terroristic threatening and aggravated assault, against the 7th Judicial District’s prosecuting attorney. Had he been tried and convicted on all those charges Harmon could have faced fines of $50,000 and years in prison
So what was his part of the deal?
He agreed to pay $750 and to leave his post as prosecutor four months before his term was going to expire anyway. That’s it. Not exactly the deal most of us would expect facing five charges of felony assault.
Actually, the deal’s worse than it first appears. We citizens didn’t even get the satisfaction of seeing the man immediately removed from office.
Here stood the prosecuting attorney, accused of attacking his ex-wife, beating up a reporter, and then assaulting a couple of deputies who stepped in to block his attack on the sheriff, whom Harmon was vilifying and calling a bitch. Not what you’d call gentlemanly behavior, especially for an officer of the court.
Ah, but in the best tradition of Arkansas good ol’ boys, this good ol’ boy got taken care of.
It seems Harmon wanted to be spared the financial inconvenience of leaving his job too abruptly. He asked to stay till the first of September. And the special prosecutor assigned to the case, the gracious Paul Bosson, gave his magnanimous OK.
We talk a lot about sending messages in this society. Here’s the message that sends to me:
“If you’ve got enough clout, dirt, money or pull in this state, just about anything can be accommodated. Beat women. Beat reporters. Beat deputies. Threaten citizens and make a mockery of the law. If you’re a prosecutor and you don’t happen to want to be prosecuted yourself–hey, that’s no particular problem. We’ll drop the big charges and reduce the rest–and heck, if you want to keep on drawing your salary and prosecuting other folks for a while, well shoot, we can arrange that too.”
I haven’t met anyone who isn’t disgusted by the deal. One police officer wondered aloud why Bosson didn’t keep at least on felony assault charge in the package–the evidence was ample–and then, if a deal just had to be cut, let Harmon out on parole?
What makes the largesse in this case so much sadder is that it’s nothing more–or less–than we’ve come to expect from this district, especially in matter involving Harmon.
The man’s been on a rampage for years Wives and ex-wives have phoned police repeatedly to report that he has beaten them (including one the morning after his plea bargain). Confidential informants have told police that he’s involved in dealing drugs.
Allegations that Harmon was misusing evidence have shadowed his administration like a smog.
Yet, as the other prosecutor noted, bullets that might have killed any other politician seemed to bounce right off Dan Harmon.
In 1991,undercover detectives turned up what was described as substantial evidence linking Harmon to drugs. But do you think he was ever the object of a sting? Did any narcotics battering ram come crashing through Harmon’s front door?
To the contrary. After word of the allegations leaked out of the U.S. attorney’s office, which was investigating public corruption in Harmon’s district, Chuck Banks, the U.S. attorney at the time, bent over backwards to assure us that the slurs against Harmon were “merit-less,” mere “rumors and innuendo.”
But last December, we learned that at least one of those recurring “rumors”–that drugs confiscated in raids by Harmon’s drug task force were turning up back on the street—might not have been quite so merit-less.
That’s when Holly Du Vall, Harmon’s most recent ex-wife, was found with cocaine packets that should have been stored safely away in Harmon’s evidence locker. This time the situation proved a little too self-evident to get the usual brushing under the rug. Harmon, the big anti-drug crusader, saw his drug task force abruptly shut down. Now we hear that a federal grand jury may be about to delve further into some of its records and activities.
I hope the jurors are up to the task of cleaning our a rats’ nest. What’s gone on in the 7th Judicial District has mocked justice long enough. No one—especially a prosecutor—should be so bullet-proof.
Reproduced with permission
April 18, 1997
Harmonizing drugs and law
BY Mara Leveritt
How’s this for a criminal enterprise: Say you’re a drug dealer, an operator, a profiteer on the narcotics black market. You buy the stuff and you sell it. You know your customers as well as your suppliers. You’ve got connections, all of them secret.
Yours is a lucrative business. The only problem is that it’s illegal. For most drug traffickers, dealing with the law can be a nuisance. But say that you are the law. Say that you’re the prosecuting attorney and that you’ve got the head of the local drug task force the guy who carries the gun working for you as one of your employees. In this case, your legal problems can be reduced.
Consider it from a business point of view. You’ve got a drug-distribution area that you control, on the streets as well as in court. If competition appears, your friend in the drug task force dispatches some of his undercover officers who also carry guns to the newcomers for a chat. The technique is usually fairly effective.
If the interlopers ignore the message, the drug task force whips into action, sweeping up the offenders so that you, the anti-drug, law-and-order prosecutor, can throw the book at them To the law-abiding public, you come out a hero. To the law-abiding public, you’re a drug-fighting hero. Your competitors see a police-backed monopoly. This combination of criminality and legal authority works for you all around. Say some cop who’s not on your payroll hauls in someone in your organization. No problem. The cop can file charges till he’s blue in the face, but so long as you’re the prosecutor, certain cases simply fall through the cracks. A charge is little more than an annoyance’ if it’s never prosecuted.
You can even turn the prosecutor’s office itself into a profit center. That power to bring people before the law is a persuasive one. “Look, hon,” you could say to a defendant, “our little ol’ drug task force has found out that you’re up to your neck in illegal activities.” (You could say this, whether or not it was true. In this arena, niceties like the truth don’t much matter.) So you say, “Now, if we take you to court, considering that I hardly ever lose a case, you’re going to spend about the next 150 years in prison. Or we could negotiate.” Some people will find ways of coming up with a lot of cash to avoid 150 – years – or even five minutes – in the Arkansas Department of Correction.
Now, say you’ve been at this for several years, wearing-your white hat as prosecutor while lining your pockets with black market cash. You know where the bodies are buried. You know who has paid how much for what. You’ve entered extortion heaven.
The information you’ve gleaned, through shake-downs by your task force and payoffs in your office, is an asset of considerable worth. What you know about some people is a golden chain around their throats. Anytime they even think about singing, you can yank it.
If, for years, all the oversight and law enforcement authorities who know what you’re up to opt to leave you alone, you’ve pretty much got it made. Only the stupidest of bad luck could interfere …
Well, here’s to stupidest of luck. It finally caught up with Dan Harmon, the former prosecuting attorney for Saline, Grant, and Hot Spring counties. What happened to Harmon was so stupid, in fact, that law enforcement authorities who have stayed out of Harmon’s way for decades were forced to show some interest. In December 1995, when Harmon’s ex-wife was caught red handed with drug evidence that had been taken from Harmon’s evidence locker and especially once that incident was reported in the media the possibility of slipping this latest bit of Harmon business under the rug was seriously diminished.
Last week, a federal grand jury charged Harmon with racketeering, dealing in cocaine, manufacture of methamphetamine, extortion, witness tampering, and retaliating against an informant. Roger Walls, administrator of the drug task force, and a third man, a Sheridan attorney, were also indicted in the scheme, and other indictments may be coming. Watch what happens in the next few weeks. We hear about cops-and-drugs scandals elsewhere. This is Arkansas’s own, and it’s a doozy. After nearly two decades in operation, what the grand jury called Harmon’s “criminal enterprise” was almost certainly not a small one. The question now is how deep the indictments will go. What do you think? Will the corruption that has plagued the 7th Judicial Distract be cleaned out? Or will this just be a little dusting, leaving the infrastructure that has supported Harmon – his investors, you might say – untouched? Write me with your bets and opinions here at the Times, or e-mail me at email@example.com. And stay tuned. What happens next will tell us a lot.
Copyright 1997 Arkansas Writers Project, Inc.
Reproduced with permission.
Friday, June 27, 1997
A question regarding Harmon
BY Mara Leveritt
Congratulations are due to the FBI agents who investigated Dan Harmon, to the U.S. attorneys who prosecuted him, and to the jurors who convicted him earlier this month of running a racket under the guise of law enforcement. The first job of justice is to keep a clean house. This scouring was way overdue.
Harmon was a corrupt prosecuting attorney. He was also the corrupt head of a federally funded Drug Task Force. The combination gave him incredible power — power which he abused.
Harmon was convicted of using illegal drugs at the same time he was sending others to prison for drugs. Worse, he was convicted of extortion, of running a shake-down operation out of his elected office.
Residents of the 7th Judicial District, which encompasses Saline, Grant and Hot Spring counties, have only gradually become aware of the stench emitting from the courthouse at Benton. That’s why they voted Harmon out of office last fall.
But Harmon has hardly been discreet in his flaunting of the law. In past years he has been found guilty of failing to pay his taxes. He has refused to take drug tests when arrested. He has been accused of battery by several women, many of them his wives or ex-wives. He boasted of once having struck a fellow lawyer, an attack that was witnessed by a judge. And, on top of all of that, federal investigators had evidence as much as seven years ago that Harmon was involved with drugs.
But the man was never even censured, much less removed from office. Only now that he stands convicted of felonies will his license to practice law be taken away.
It is hard to imagine how much damage Dan Harmon did during the years he held office as prosecutor. Cases that should have been prosecuted were not. Cases that should not have been prosecuted no doubt were. Hundreds of citizens who learned of Harmon’s way with justice directly through their own experience or through that of friends and relatives walked away from the courthouse cynical.
Harmon ran what a lawyer in Pulaski County recently described as “a reign of terror” in the counties he was sworn to serve. All of that raises the question of why the man was not stopped earlier. It could have happened.
·Former U.S. Attorney Chuck Banks could have brought his evidence against Harmon before a federal grand jury. He would not.
·The Committee on Professional Conduct, which supposedly monitors lawyers’ behavior, could have yanked Harmon’s license for his refusal to submit to mandated drug-testing when he was held as a federal prisoner, or censured him over his indifference to state and federal tax laws. The committee took no action.
·The judge who witnessed Harmon’s attack on a fellow member of the bar could have challenged Harmon early on. He did not.
·The police in Benton could have pressed charges against Harmon for his alleged physical attacks and death threats against his then-wife, Holly DuVall Harmon. But though the attacks happened time and again the police didn’t press charges.
And those are just the most obvious failures of the legal profession to correct abuses within its ranks. Less obvious but no less chilling are the opportunities that other judges, lawyers, and police passed up to put a halt to Harmon when they came across information that suggested what he was up to.
Dan Harmon was not operating in a vacuum. It is impossible to believe that he operated a criminal enterprise out of his prosecutor’s office for years, one of the crimes for which he now stands convicted, without a certain awareness from others in the legal community.
In a way, our system of justice is like a nuclear power plant. It’s big, powerful, and complex, and it relies on elaborate systems of monitoring to make sure that it’s running correctly. If someone becomes aware that someone else is asleep at the switch — or worse, is engaged in sabotage—it is incumbent upon the observer to report the problem and on management to immediately respond. Otherwise, no one is safe.
So too with justice. If part of the system breaks down — if someone is mishandling his job — the machine ceases to be of service and starts to become a threat. The longer the part malfunctions, the more dangerous the machine becomes. It is not unreasonable to say that, as with a nuclear power plant, when the justice system fails, lives—and, in fact, a way of life—can be destroyed.
We count on police, lawyers, and judges to monitor their ranks. In the aftermath of Dan Harmon’s conviction, the citizens of Arkansas, and especially of the 7th Judicial District, have a right to ask the legal profession: Why did it take a federal investigation and a jury to stop him?
Reproduced with permission
Copyright Arkansas Writers’ Project, Inc.
The story of Dan Harmon is as much about the public officials who supported and protected him as it is about Harmon himself. His power over so many high-level players would be inexplicable but for the Saline Memorial Hospital scandal. In summary, the hospital administrator, embezzled hospital funds to finance a party house, always supplied with the best wine, food, dope, and party girls. High level state leaders were frequent guests, but did not know that every room was wired with secret cameras and recording devices throughout. When the party house was raided, Judge John Cole appointed Harmon as special prosecutor, who took possession of all the evidence. The party tapes were never seen again. The possible use by Harmon of one of those tapes is suggested on Chuck Banks’ page under Bad Guys. The newspaper accounts of the Saline Memorial Hospital scandal are under Saline County Investigations.
No surprise then that Cole appointed Harmon to lead the county grand jury investigation of the “train deaths.” Also,no surprise that during the investigation, witnesses turned up dead, and nothing useful came from the grand jury other than their frustration that they were fettered from doing their jobs, and what they wanted to report was disallowed by Cole. See video clip.
Harmon, a democrat, was well-publicized as a wife-beater, a drug distributor, and a tax-dodger, yet Attorney Ray Baxter, a democratic party leader, told reporters Harmon’s troubles are “none of the party’s business.” Harmon was jailed for refusing to submit to drug testing as a condition of release at his arraignment hearing on federal tax charges, yet the district’s State Senator Charlie Cole Chaffin cheered and praised him for his “Constitutional” stance. Arkansas’s Committee on Professional Conduct suspended Harmon’s license to practice law, yet a long list of public officials, including State Attorney General Winston Bryant, convinced the committee to nullify the order. Harmon went on a crime spree of kidnapping, assault and battery and was charged with six felonies, yet Special Prosecutor Paul Boson reduced the six felonies to two misdemeanors, and Special Judge Hamilton Singleton slapped Harmon on the wrist. A federal grand jury heard enough evidence to unanimously indict Harmon on various drug-related crimes, yet U.S. Attorney Chuck Banks sent the jury panel home and held a press conference clearing Harmon of all allegations. It truly is hard to believe that Harmon had something on all of these supporters and protectors, but an alternative explanation does not come to mind? Perhaps a tape on someone who had influence/control over some of the others? We just don’t know. News articles chronicling the above are on the Saline County Investigation page.
25 Jun 2010 GINNY LAROE
Ex-prosecutor Harmon wins acquittal in drug-selling trial
Former prosecutor Dan Harmon waits Thursday for his trial on drug charges to begin at the Grant County Courthouse in Sheridan.
SHERIDAN — Dan Harmon, a former prosecutor who served time in federal prison for public corruption, was acquitted Thursday of drug charges that threatened to send him to prison for the rest of his life.
It took a jury 30 minutes to find the 65-year-old permanently disbarred lawyer from Benton innocent of two counts of delivery of a controlled substance, which stemmed from allegations that he gave women powerful prescription painkillers in exchange for cash and a peek at their breasts last year.
Harmon was arrested Feb. 17 in Sheridan, the Grant County city where he once prosecuted criminals, about two months after police said they made controlled buys from him on two different days using a drug informant.
He was prosecutor for Grant, Saline and Hot Spring counties from 1979-80 and from 1991-96. In 1996, he entered a plea deal in state court regarding beating up former
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter Rodney Bowers and fighting with two sheriff ’s deputies in Benton and was thereby forced from office.
Before his resignation, a federal grand jury indicted him, and in 1997 a jury convicted him of running a public-corruption scheme, including extorting money and drugs from criminal defendants in exchange for dropped charges. In a separate trial shortly after, he was convicted of federal drug crimes.
He was released from prison in 2006 and had completed his supervised release by the time he was arrested by a city officer in Sheridan.
The jury of seven women and five men, including at least one juror who acknowledged having met Harmon before Thursday, were not told during the one-day trial of his criminal history. He was described as retired. He didn’t take the stand. “I just want to thank the jury and say God bless you,” Harmon, white-haired and less confrontational than during past troubles, told reporters after the verdict was announced.
One charge, alleging delivery of morphine tablets, carried a maximum sentence of life in prison, and the charge relating to hydrocodone, a lesser felony, was punishable by up to 20 years.
Prosecutors also were asking for sentencing enhancements that could have added another 10 years in prison. That enhancement was based on the location of the North Red Street apartments where police claimed the exchanges took place, which is within 1,000 feet of a school.
“His fate, his future is really in your hands,” defense attorney Mark Hampton told jurors before they began deliberations at 5:45 p.m.
The state’s key testimony came from former Sheridan resident Mary Daugherty, who said that while working as an informant on Dec. 10,
“I just want to thank the jury and say God bless you,” Harmon told reporters after the verdict was announced.
she and her friend showed their breasts to Harmon in exchange for two hydrocodone pills each.
Six days later, she gave Harmon $50 — cash provided by a narcotics officer — for morphine pills, she told the jury.
“I was not going to show my breasts again,” the widowed mother of three said indignantly from the stand.
Daugherty, blond-haired and wearing a scoop-neck, form-fitting T-shirt and capri pants, admitted that she once was hooked on painkillers and began working for police to avoid her own potential prosecution on drug charges.
But two women who also were at the apartment complex when the alleged transactions occurred disputed her claims that Harmon supplied her with pills.
Amber Luker, a one-time friend of Daugherty’s who also was under contract to be a confidential informant for the Group 6 Narcotics Enforcement Unit, said she saw no drug deals and never showed her breasts.
“Did you see Harmon exchange any kinds of drugs for money?” Hampton asked.
“No, sir,” said the thin 30year-old with long dark hair, who sipped water and kept her purse on her shoulder while on the stand.
Luker said she and several other women, most whom were around age 30 and raising young children, were hanging out at a friend’s apartment having “girl talk” while Harmon was there visiting.
Kristy Mir, who was part of that “girl talk,” also said she saw no drug deals. Mir said Harmon took her to the friend’s apartment to visit, a favor she said Harmon would frequently do for her.
Special prosecutor H.G. Foster expressed disbelief that a man twice the women’s age was simply hanging out, being friendly, doing favors. He called Luker and Mir’s testimony unbelievable.
The prosecutor said the testimony of drug agent Eddie Keathley and Daugherty were more “reasonable” than one theory by Hampton that Daugherty picked Harmon’s pocket for the hydrocodone pills, which were turned into police in a prescription bottle with Harmon’s name on it.
Hampton pointed out what he saw as flaws in the investigation, pointing to Keathley having no audio or video recordings of the alleged drug buys and the fact the agent only saw Harmon at the apartments during one buy and couldn’t say exactly from which apartment he’d emerged.
“I thought the evidence was horribly weak,” Hampton said after hugging his client, whom he’s known for years.
Foster, when asked if he thought flaws in the investigation played a role in the acquittal, said: “It’s just the nature of narcotics enforcement.”
The verdict was met with a quiet chorus of “yes” from a few Harmon supporters.
The courtroom also hosted Harmon foes, including Linda Ives, a mother of one of two teenagers who were killed on train tracks in Saline County in 1987.
Harmon once led a grand jury investigation into their deaths, which remain unsolved. Eventually, Ives became fiercely critical of Harmon and many others involved in the case.
Circuit Judge Chris Williams dismissed court without letting Harmon address the jury. The judge praised the attorneys, saying it was one of the “cleanest” trials he’s presided over.