FEDERAL GRAND JURY INVESTIGATES HARMON

FEDERAL GRAND JURY INVESTIGATES HARMON

There Were Doubts That Harmon Would Ever Face Justice For Anything

Harmon in 1988 when he was the media’s darlin’, using them to orchestrate a cover-up of the murders in which he participated.

Harmon in 2018 when he was nobody’s darlin’ and was reduced to giving women drugs for a peek at their breasts.

Harmon's mug shot.

Articles That Cover Harmon's Downfall

April 12, 1997

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

By: Linda Friedlieb

Former Prosecuting Attorney Dan Harmon ran his office as a criminal enterprise for six years, demanded money in return for dropping charges, possessed stolen drugs and assaulted a newspaper reporter, according to a federal indictment released Friday.  A federal grand jury in Little Rock charged Harmon, 52, of Benton, Sheridan businessman Roger C. Walls and Sheridan attorney William A. Murphy with violating the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act. The racketeering count targeting Harmon contains accusations of 11 separate crimes. He is also charged separately for 10 of the crimes.

“In reality, the defendants operated the Seventh Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney’s Office as a conduit to obtain monetary benefits to themselves and others, and to participate in and conceal criminal activities,” the indictment states. Harmon as prosecutor, Walls as administrator of the 7th Judicial District Drug Task Force and Murphy as a defense attorney were the indictment’s main targets. Harmon’s office was home to the task force, which covered Saline, Grant and Hot Spring counties, until its demise in January 1996. On Friday, Harmon characterized the charges as “pretty fantastic” and “something out of Alice in Wonderland.” He denied all of the allegations. “I thought I would be arrested and go to jail today,” Harmon said.

No arrest warrant was issued, and Harmon arrived on his own at the federal courts building in Little Rock and received a summons to appear next week for arraignment. Asked if he would plead guilty to any of the charges, he responded, “How are you going to plead guilty to something you didn’t do?” Harmon indicated that he would represent himself and said he would not accept any restrictions on his freedom while awaiting trial. ”If they can stick some garbage like this on me, than every American ought to be afraid,” Harmon said. “We don’t have a democracy; we have a federal bureaucracy that’s out of control.”

Harmon faces one charge of racketeering, two of possession with the intent to distribute cocaine hydrochloride, four of conspiracy to extort money, two of conspiracy to manufacture drugs, one of witness tampering and one of retaliation against a witness. The witness allegedly retaliated against is Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Benton bureau chief Rodney Bowers, who investigated and wrote about Harmon’s activities and the drug task force throughout 1995 and 1996. “Articles written by Bowers were routinely reviewed by federal authorities investigating Harmon and activities within the Seventh Judicial District,” the indictment states.

Harmon assaulted Bowers on May 31, 1996, after Bowers approached the then-prosecutor seeking comment for an article about forfeiture of property seized by the drug task force. “We expect the law to take its course,” said Griffin Smith, jr., the paper’s executive editor. The conspiracy to extort charges deal with sums of money up to $100,000.

In one incident described in the indictment, a woman named Tina Davis traveled to Arkansas from Indiana to deliver $10,000 to Harmon to free her husband, who had been arrested in Saline County on marijuana charges. When she arrived, the indictment says, Harmon advised Davis her husband would not be released unless she obtained more money or had sex with the prosecutor. The man was later released for $10,000 and the couple was forced to sign a disclaimer saying they had been arrested with the money and had no claim to it, the indictment continued. Jack Lassiter, a Little Rock attorney representing Walls, said his client will plead innocent to the charges and ask for a jury trial. Walls, 47, faces one charge of conspiracy to manufacture drugs, two counts of conspiracy to extort money, one count of making a false statement to a financial institution and one count of money laundering as well as the racketeering charge. “It looks to me like we’re going to spend a long time on cross-examination with some of these government witnesses,” Lassiter said.

Murphy, a 50-year-old defense attorney, faces two allegations of conspiring to extort money and one of bank fraud on top of his racketeering charge. He did not return a message left at his law office, and no one answered subsequent phone calls. Harmon and Murphy are accused of inducing a defendant to pay them $100,000 to get a reduced sentence and charges dismissed. The defendant was released on bond and distributed drugs to raise the money, paying about $88,000, according to the indictment. Harmon and Walls also were accused of extorting $5,500 from a Texas man in 1993 and 1994.

The indictment also accuses Harmon and Murphy of extorting $50,000 from a man arrested on drug charges in return for dropping the charges.

The indictment also charges Holly DuVall, Harmon’s ex-wife, with knowing about the commission of a felony and not reporting it. That charge carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both.

Friday’s indictment accused Harmon and DuVall of breaking into a drug task force evidence locker and stealing more than one kilogram of cocaine in October 1995. DuVall was not charged in that crime. DuVall previously faced more serious felonies: possession of about 1.1 kilograms of cocaine and conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute methamphetamine over a seven-year period. Those drug charges against DuVall were vacated by Friday’s superseding indictment. U.S. Attorney Paula Casey refused to comment on the reason for the reduction in DuVall’s charges. DuVall’s attorney, Bill McLean, would not comment on the case Friday. Harmon and DuVall married in December 1992 and divorced three years later.

Harmon also faces a charge of drug possession with intent to distribute for allegedly watching another man cook about 118 grams of methamphetamine and accepting half in June 1994. Another count alleges Harmon and Walls provided chemicals used by another to manufacture the drug that same month.

Two other men face single drug charges related to the racketeering indictment. Arturo E. Valdez, 63, of San Antonio and John Milton Steward, 55, of Benton each were charged with conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute marijuana. Valdez is the only person listed on the indictment for whom an arrest warrant was issued.

The indictment contends that a member of the drug task force arrested Valdez in March 1993 after discovering a box containing about 117 pounds of marijuana during a traffic stop. Valdez was later freed. The indictment says that later that summer, Harmon met with Valdez and obtained a similar box which he opened with DuVall. The indictment charges that Steward weighed and then sold the marijuana, and that Harmon, Steward and DuVall shared in the money raised.

Harmon also tried to influence a witness testifying against him before a federal grand jury in 1995 by promising a favorable treatment in state court, the indictment said.
Two brothers from Fordyce, Thakor N. Patel and Pravin N. Patel, were each charged with one count of aiding Walls in giving a false statement to a financial institution and one count of money laundering. The Patels owned the Sherand Motel in Sheridan until the summer of 1995 when they sold it to Walls.

According to the indictment, the negotiations over the sale included a demand by the Patels for $25,000 cash with no record made for the Internal Revenue Service. Walls obtained financing for the purchase from the National Bank of Arkansas, and asked for $35,000 more than the sale price for operating expenses, the charge continues. Dealing with the money laundering charges, the indictment states that the Patels aided Walls in exchanging a check for $34,007.77 for $24,707.77 in cash at the First National Bank of Sheridan.

Luther Sutter, attorney for the Patels, said his clients dispute the charges. “They deny any knowledge of any statements Mr. Walls made to any financial institution,” Sutter said.

The defendants are scheduled to appear Wednesday morning before U.S. Magistrate Judge John F. Forster for pleas and arraignments. The case, previously assigned to U.S. District Judge Henry Woods when DuVall was the sole defendant, will now be heard by Chief U.S. District Judge Stephen M. Reasoner. Casey said Friday the FBI and IRS investigation into the case is continuing.

Before he was a prosecutor, Harmon served as juvenile judge in Benton from 1975 to 1977. In 1978, he was elected prosecutor of Saline, Grant and Hot Spring counties. He served one term before leaving office, but later unsuccessfully ran for the office in 1984. He eventually regained the office in 1990.

In his years as prosecutor, Harmon found himself accused of several crimes, but never was prosecuted. The closest he came was last year when special prosecutor Paul Bosson of Hot Springs charged him with five felonies and a misdemeanor in the assaults of Bowers, DuVall and two Saline County sheriff’s employees. A plea agreement, which ensured his resignation, allowed him to escape felony charges and trial. He left office in July 1996.

Copyright 1997, Little Rock Newspapers, Inc. All rights reserved.

Reproduced with permission

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April 15,1997

By Jean Duffey

Dan Harmon has been indicted for eleven serious federal crimes. Linda Ives has waited for this moment since 1991, when she learned Harmon used his position as special county prosecutor to orchestrate a cover-up of Kevin and Don’s murders. She must be thrilled, but she isn’t. She is not even sort of pleased.
But why? Harmon is facing some serious time in federal prison. His law license will be revoked and he has been exposed as the criminal he is. What more could Linda ask for? What does she expect from federal prosecutors? Just what does she want, anyway?

Linda Ives wants Dan Harmon to be held accountable for the murder of her son. However, federal prosecutors are ignoring evidence that is more than adequate to indict Harmon for conspiracy to commit the murders. The FBI has three witnesses placing Harmon on the tracks with the boys the night they were murdered. One of them was polygraphed and passed. So, what’s going on?

It looks and smells like a cover-up. Even though Harmon was indicted under RICO which allows federal prosecutors to go ten years back, the indictments only went back to August, 1991. The only reasonable explanation for that is, the U.S. Attorney’s office is protecting Chuck Banks.
Banks was the U.S. Attorney when the 1990 federal grand jury heard evidence against Harmon. According to three of those jurors, they were ready to unanimously indict Harmon back then. However, on June 27, 1991, Banks held a press conference and cleared Harmon on all allegations of wrong-doing. Banks, a republican appointee, was then nominated for a federal judgeship position by George Bush. The explanation made simple is, Banks thwarted the federal investigation before it connected Kevin and Don’s murders to the Mena/CIA drug smuggling operation.

In 1994, the Little Rock FBI recommended Banks be charged with obstruction of justice when they opened their own investigation of Harmon and the murders of Kevin and Don. They wanted Banks charged for shutting down his grand jury and for protecting Harmon. However, federal prosecutors were careful to include charges in Harmon’s indictment that date back to just after Banks cleared Harmon, even though enough evidence existed to indict Harmon on many other counts dating back to 1987, within the ten years time limitations. Maybe they are protecting Banks to protect the image of their office, but they are doing so at the expense of their integrity.
Bottom line – if it has not been clear before, it is crystal clear now that the government is never going to bring to justice those responsible for murdering Kevin and Don. Linda’s only hope is civil court.

The Kevin Ives Civil Justice Foundation has been established as a charitable organization for the purpose of raising money to file a civil suit against Dan Harmon and several other public officials for the murders and cover-ups. But, a civil suit costs a huge amount of money, and in this case, no financial benefit is expected. Harmon is penniless, but Linda is seeking accountability, not money.

A civil law suit will expose the many crimes surrounding the deaths of Kevin and Don and the public officials on every level, republicans and democrats alike, who have participated in the cover-ups. Fighting the government will not be easy, but Linda and I are committed. We plan to spend the summer in preparation for the suit to be filed this fall. We do not want to spend valuable time on fund-raising, but money must be raised. Every phase of a civil law suit is expensive. The time has come for us to ask for financial help. Up to now, we have personally financed most of our work, but we simply will not be able to pay for the voluminous files we need to obtain under FOI, not to mention the enormous costs of depositions, witness fees, attorney fees, and the trial itself.

Many people over the years have extended Linda emotional support and prayers. Those are still needed, but we must now have money. Linda begun receiving unsolicited donations last year, and she is very thankful and touched that strangers are so generous. However, giving money to this cause is not simply a donation, it is payment for value. The value will be the exposure of truth – the truth our government does not want exposed.

Linda Ives’ civil suit is not the only case around the country being launched to seek truth and accountability from our government, but it is one of the most important cases that will ever be launched. Exposing the circumstances surrounding the murders of Kevin Ives and Don Henry will expose the crimes of Arkansas’s political system under Bill Clinton as well as connections to two Republican Presidencies.

Any amount will be appreciated. We would rather have $1 from 50,000 people, than $50,000 from one person. We want many people to know, to care, and to become involved. Please, please help.

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April 15, 1997

The Wall Street Journal

By Micah Morrison

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.–To Whitewater aficionados the exciting news of the moment is neither the Jim McDougal sentencing hearing showing his cooperation with the prosecutors nor Janet Reno’s decision not to appoint an independent counsel on campaign contributions. Rather, it’s last Friday’s indictment here of Dan Harmon.

Mr. Harmon served as prosecuting attorney for Arkansas’s Seventh Judicial District from 1990 until his abrupt resignation in July 1996. Earlier, he had insinuated himself as a volunteer investigator and later special prosecutor in the controversial “train deaths” murder case of teenagers Kevin Ives and Don Henry, unsolved since 1987.

A federal grand jury charges that Mr. Harmon (and two associates, Roger Walls and William Murphy) “operated the Seventh Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney’s Office as a conduit to obtain monetary benefits to themselves and others, and to participate and conceal criminal activities.”

Distributing Cocaine

Mr. Harmon faces two counts of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and two counts relating to the production of methamphetamine. Also four extortion counts and a count under RICO, the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations law. Plus one count of witness tampering and another of retaliating against a witness, for physically attacking Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter Rodney Bowers last May.

The defendants are not directly connected with President Clinton. However, the Harmon indictment is the clearest charge yet that during Gov. Clinton’s tenure certain Arkansas law enforcement officials were dealing in drugs. The new charges were brought to the grand jury by Paula Casey, Mr. Clinton’s hand-picked U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, who says that an FBI and IRS investigation is continuing. Mr. Harmon vigorously denies the charges, saying they are the result of “a federal bureaucracy that’s out of control.”

Mr. Harmon knows something about being out of control. In March 1996, two months prior to allegedly assaulting Mr. Bowers, he briefly kidnapped and threatened to kill Holly DuVall, his estranged wife. She had been arrested on drug charges in November 1995, and was thought to have cooperated with the corruption probe. In her condominium, police found an evidence package that was supposed to contain two pounds of pure cocaine and be locked in the safe of Mr. Harmon’s drug task force. It proved to contain a silicon-based substance.

Mr. Harmon has a long and colorful career in Arkansas law enforcement. In 1980, he was running unopposed for a second term as prosecuting attorney when he abruptly withdrew and declared personal bankruptcy. He came back from political oblivion with the train deaths case. When Ives and Henry were found dead on railroad tracks southwest of Little Rock in August 1987, Gov. Clinton’s medical examiner, Fahmy Malak, quickly ruled the deaths “accidental,” saying the teenagers had fallen asleep after smoking too much marijuana. After a public outcry, a second autopsy concluded the boys had been murdered, and Mr. Clinton’s solicitude for Dr. Malak in this and other cases became a subject of controversy.

Gov. Clinton named Department of Health Director Joycelyn Elders to head a commission to review Dr. Malak. She cleared him of improprieties and recommended a raise. Dr. Malak was eased out of office on the eve of Mr. Clinton’s 1992 presidential run.

Shortly after the death of the boys, Mr. Harmon approached Linda Ives, Kevin’s mother, to help with the investigation on a volunteer basis. Later he persuaded a judge to name him special prosecutor to supervise the investigation. In 1990, he was elected again as the local prosecutor. But meanwhile, he’d come under scrutiny in a 1989 corruption probe alleging drug distribution, money laundering and political payoffs. In June 1991, then-U.S. Attorney Chuck Banks cleared Mr. Harmon, saying there was “no evidence of drug-related misconduct by any public official.”

Mrs. Ives is not impressed with the current indictment. She’s conducted a decade-long campaign over the airwaves, and lately the Internet; her account was elaborated in a story on this page on April 18, 1996. She charges that Mr. Harmon was at the murder scene and that “high state and federal officials” had participated in a coverup. “I firmly believe my son and Don Henry were killed because they witnessed a drug drop by an airplane connected to the Mena drug smuggling routes.” She scornfully notes that the current indictment only goes back to August 1991, two months after U.S. Attorney Banks cleared Mr. Harmon in the earlier probe. “Are we to believe Dan Harmon was clean in June, but dirty in August?”

Mrs. Ives might be dismissed as a grieving mother grasping at straws, but in charging that Mr. Harmon was involved in the boys’ murder she has found some allies among investigators. One of them is Jean Duffey, who in 1989 headed a Seventh Judicial District drug task force. Ms. Duffey left the state when Mr. Harmon filed charges against her, later found to be baseless. “We had witnesses telling us about low-flying aircraft and informants testifying about drug pickups” in the area of the train deaths, Ms. Duffey said last year. She also says that a local official told her she was “not to use the drug task force to investigate any public officials.”

Someone else who believes Linda Ives is former Saline County Detective John Brown, who reopened the case in 1993 and found a new witness he says saw Mr. Harmon on the tracks the night the boys died. Detective Brown’s work caught the attention of the FBI’s new top man in Little Rock, Special Agent I.C. Smith. A storied figure in the bureau, Mr. Smith was sent to Little Rock in August 1995 by Director Louis Freeh. The Harmon indictment is part of a new interest in public corruption by investigators under Mr. Smith and Ms. Casey.

Money Laundering

Earlier last week, Ms. Casey also indicted Arkansas lawyer Mark Cambiano on 31 money laundering and conspiracy counts. The indictment said the $380,000 Mr. Cambiano allegedly laundered had come from a methaphetamine ring, and that $20,000 of it went to the Democratic National Committee and $9,770 to President Clinton’s inaugural fund.

Ms. Casey said that although Mr. Cambiano laundered the money, he was not involved in drug trafficking, and that there was no reason to believe those receiving the contributions knew of their tainted origins. Mr. Cambiano denies the charges. The allegations arose from a drug investigation that resulted in guilty pleas from Willard Burnett, alleged leader of the ring, and Carl Poteete, former Conway County sheriff. Whether or not the Smith and Casey investigations proceed to further revelations about the “train deaths” and Mena, the signs of a shifting landscape are unmistakable. Exhibit One: Dan Harmon.

Mr. Morrison is a Journal editorial page writer.

Copyright © 1997 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Reproduced with Permission

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April 17, 1997

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

By: Linda Friedlieb

A federal judge released former Prosecuting Attorney Dan Harmon pending his trial on racketeering, drug and extortion charges even though Harmon refused to comply with several standard conditions of pretrial release. Harmon, Sheridan attorney William A. Murphy, Sheridan businessman Roger C. Walls and John Milton Steward of Benton pleaded innocent Wednesday to charges brought Friday in a 15-count indictment.

The case is assigned to Chief U.S. District Judge Stephen M. Reasoner and is to go to trial, which is expected to last more than three weeks, on May 27. U.S. Magistrate Judge John F. Forster almost incarcerated Harmon when he refused to undergo drug testing after being charged with, among other things, possessing drugs. Harmon said he felt that someone associated with the government would tamper with the drug test. Harmon also refused to submit personal information to the federal Office of Pretrial Services. “I refuse to answer any of their questions,” he said. “I> will not submit any of my family and friends to government harassment. The government has harassed my clients until I am penniless and homeless and cannot practice law. “I respectfully appreciate the court’s consideration, but with what I’ve been through in the last few years, I believe the FBI is more sinister than the Mafia and I refuse to submit.”

In 1991, Harmon refused to take drug tests that U.S. Magistrate Judge H. David Young ordered after a federal grand jury returned tax charges against Harmon. He spent 18 days in the North Little Rock jail, but the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals eventually ordered his release, saying drug testing was improper in his case. In the end on Wednesday, Forster ordered Harmon to fund his own drug tests, which he agreed to if the procedure is done at an independent clinic. Forster also appointed Bruce Eddy of the Hilburn Law Firm in North Little Rock to assist Harmon in his defense. Harmon, Murphy and Walls are accused of running the 7th Judicial District’s prosecuting attorney’s office as a criminal enterprise under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Walls was head of the district’s drug task force. The district covers Saline, Grant and Hot Spring counties.

Harmon faces 10 other charges: two of possession with the intent to distribute cocaine hydrochloride, four of conspiracy to extort money, two of conspiracy to manufacture drugs, one of witness tampering and one of retaliation against a witness. The witness was Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter Rodney Bowers, who investigated and wrote about Harmon’s activities. Federal investigators routinely read Bowers’ stories for information about the case. Harmon is accused of assaulting Bowers in 1996 when Bowers tried to interview him for a story.

In the midst of his federal proceedings Wednesday, Harmon was served with a warrant charging him with failing to appear in Sherwood Municipal Court. Harmon recently had been cited for driving with an expired driver’s license but didn’t take care of the ticket, police said.

After returning to the federal courthouse, Harmon said he was removed from the building in handcuffs as part of the federal government’s harassment campaign against him. Sherwood police would not release information about the traffic stop but said Harmon must pay a fine of $401 or appear in court April 22. In addition to the racketeering charge, Walls, 47, stands accused of one count of conspiracy to manufacture drugs, two counts of conspiracy to extort money, one count of making a false statement to a financial institution and one count of money laundering. “The allegations of the government are completely false,” Walls said while leaving the courthouse. “We’re looking forward to a quick and speedy trial so we can tell our side of the story.

I don’t understand how they could come up with these allegations.” Walls’ attorney, Jack Lassiter, said the government’s witnesses include four crystal methamphetamine distributors, a man serving a 56-year prison term in Arkansas, three other people arrested on drug charges and Holly DuVall, Harmon’s ex-wife. “I expect it to be a very lively trial,” Lassiter said. Murphy, 50 — whom state Rep. Stuart Vess, D-North Little Rock, is representing — faces two charges of extortion and one of bank fraud in addition to the racketeering charge.

Leaving the courthouse, Vess said he anticipates Murphy’s vindication at trial. Forster appointed former prosecuting attorney Chris Palmer to represent Steward, who is charged with one count of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute marijuana.

Four others charged in last week’s indictment were not present for Wednesday’s proceedings: * DuVall, who previously was charged with two drug offenses, now faces one count of concealing information about the commission of a felony. DuVall will probably appear for arraignment next week. * Brothers Pravin N. and Thakor N. Patel of Fordyce are to be arraigned next week on charges of money laundering and making false statements to a financial institution.

A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Arturo E. Valdez, 63, of San Antonio. Valdez faces one charge of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute marijuana.

Copyright 1997, Little Rock Newspapers, Inc. All rights reserved

Reproduced with permission

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Friday, April 18, 1997

ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

By: Linda Friedlieb

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. 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.

Copyright 1997, Little Rock Newspapers, Inc. All rights reserved

Reproduced with permission

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April 18, 1997

Arkansas Times

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 mleveritt@aristotle.net. And stay tuned. What happens next will tell us a lot.

Copyright 1997 Arkansas Writers Project, Inc.
Reproduced with permission

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Wednesday, April 23, 1997

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

By: Linda Friedlieb

After spending five nights in the Faulkner County jail, former Prosecuting Attorney Dan Harmonagreed Tuesday to submit to drug tests so he could go home.

In a surprise hearing held late Tuesday afternoon at Harmon’s request, U.S. Magistrate Judge John F. Forster Jr. agreed to release Harmon as long as the Benton man agreed to standard pretrial release procedures.

Because Harmon is charged with possession of drugs, among other charges handed up by a federal grand jury on April 11, he is required to submit to urine analysis.

“It just appeared to me that the rules were completely arbitrary,” Harmon said Tuesday. “I think by serving five days in jail, I demonstrated my concern about the government’s drug tests.”

At an arraignment a week ago, Forster broke with standard procedure and agreed to allow Harmon to take his drug tests at an independent facility. Harmon was released, but turned himself in the next day saying he was unwilling to submit any of his body fluids for the tests.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Harmon said part of his “great concern” regarding the drug tests stemmed from a positive drug test encountered by his former wife and co-defendant Holly DuVall. While on supervised release earlier this year, DuVall tested positive for cocaine use. DuVall maintained she did not use the drug and attempted to contest the validity of the test results in court.

Harmon said he believed — and could present evidence — that DuVall’s test was tampered with. DuVall faced drug and conspiracy charges from a January indictment, but those charges were reduced in April to knowing about a felony and not disclosing that information.

Forster agreed to release Harmon Tuesday but said he would  have to take standard drug tests, which are administered by pretrial services and evaluated by a laboratory in California. If Harmon wishes, Forster said, he could have another test done by an independent laboratory to use for comparison should he test positive on the government’s test.

In 1991, Harmon refused to take drug tests that U.S. Magistrate Judge H. David Young ordered after a federal grand jury returned tax charges against Harmon. He spent 18 days in the North Little Rock jail but the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals eventually ordered his release, saying drug testing was improper in that case.

On Tuesday, Harmon — who is representing himself continued to search for a suitable attorney to assist in his defense.

Forster originally appointed North Little Rock lawyer Bruce Eddy for the job, but Eddy was removed a day later because he represents Ronnie Joe Knight. Knight is named but not charged in Harmon’s indictment in two drug-related counts and is likely to appear as a witness against Harmon.

The second attorney to be appointed was R. David Lewis, but Harmon asked Tuesday that he be taken off the case because he may be a defense witness. Harmon said that Lewis faced similar “harassment by the FBI” and could be called to the witness stand.

Harmon asked Forster to appoint a female attorney to take Lewis’ place, saying that prosecutors and the media are “trying to paint me as some kind of brute as regards women.” Forster said he did not know if that was a “reasonable” request.

Harmon faces 11 charges, including one that he ran the 7th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney’s office as an organized criminal enterprise in violation of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

He is also accused of four counts of conspiracy to extort money, two each of possession of cocaine hydrochloride with the intent to distribute and conspiracy to manufacture drugs, and one each of witness tampering and retaliation against a witness.

Harmon and seven co-defendants are scheduled for trial May 27 Copyright 1997, Little Rock Newspapers, Inc.

Copyright 1997, Little Rock Newspapers, Inc. All rights reserved.

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May 2, 1997

ARKANSAS TIMES

By: Mara Leveritt

The billionaire philanthropist George Soros said, “I firmly believe the war on drugs is doing more harm to our society than drug abuse itself,” and I agree.

Gradually, many people are reaching the same conclusion; the failures of the war on drugs having grown so obvious. Cartels have flourished, prisons have burgeoned, courts have swelled, neighborhoods have become unsafe, and countless criminal activities have been financed by laundered money — and still, drugs are everywhere, especially in our prisons. How do we think we can keep drugs off of our streets when we cannot keep them out of our prisons?

It’s a dismal situation. But the worst of it, it seems to me, is the public corruption that inevitably accompanies restrictions in supply and demand. Corruption brings drugs into prisons. Corruption allows drugs onto our streets. The drug trade could not flourish anywhere without an assist from people in power. This is true, not just in Mexico and Colombia, but in the United States, as well.

Recently, allegations of a particularly insidious form of corruption have arisen — again– in central Arkansas. At the center of the alleged scheme is Dan Harmon, a Benton lawyer. He is charged with running a drug-related “criminal enterprise” while serving as prosecuting attorney for the state’s 7th Judicial District and heading its federally funded drug task force. Because of Harmon’s position, at the nexus of politics, law enforcement, the courts, and a ring of alleged drug entrepreneurs, his case is as faceted as a jewel and as intriguing. It warrants close attention, and I promise, it will receive some in this column. But consider this for now: The indictments issued by a federal grand jury last month claim that for the past six years since August of 1991 — Harmon has run his office as a criminal enterprise, possessed stolen drugs and demanded money in return for dropping charges. That’s quite an operation. What I question is the dating of the indictments back only so far as August of 1991. That timing itself is rife with political overtones. Consider what was already known about Harmon before then, some of which was outlined in an article by John Brummett that appeared in the Arkansas Times in July of 1991.

“[He] is under investigation by a federal grand jury in Little Rock on allegations that he is a recreational drug user, perhaps a drug dealer who has traded cocaine for sexual favors, a tax evader, and a corrupt public official.”

“Federal authorities have also investigated whether a check written on Harmon’s account for $1,800 was for a drug buy.”

“[The former head of the district’s drug task force, Jean Duffey,] delivered files of testimony that implicated several prominent people in the 7th Judicial District, including Harmon and two judges, in a drug ring and a system of political and business corruption.”

“Harmon accompanied his daughter [Tammy, who had been subpoenaed to testify before the federal grand jury] to the U.S. attorney’s office, and there was quite a scene. It took place in U.S. Attorney Chuck Banks’ office, and Banks ended up calling for federal marshals because Harmon’s rage was portending violence.”

The article also reported several instances when Harmon did engage in physical violence, including one when he beat a fellow attorney in front of a judge in the judge’s chambers. In none of the instances was Harmon arrested or even censured.

And Harmon slipped through the federal grand jury’s fingers, as well. Almost simultaneously with that 1991 story’s publication, Banks cleared Harmon, saying that there was “no evidence of drug-related misconduct by any public official.”

Yet now, six years later, a second federal grand jury investigating Harmon has concluded that evidence linking Harmon with cocaine, methamphetamine, and abuse of office did exist — or at least that it began to emerge within days after Banks had cleared him.

What kind of nonsense is this?

Harmon has been under suspicion for running a drug-related criminal enterprise in the district he was supposed to be serving throughout this decade. The citizens of the 7th Judicial District have known it, as have many state and federal investigators. The long-running unwillingness of authorities to censure him, even for documented physical assaults, has undercut public confidence in the district’s entire legal system. And now we have this added insult: Last week, Barbara Webb, Harmon’s successor as prosecuting attorney, won her first drug-related conviction. A 32-year-old Benton man was sentenced to eight years in prison and fined $15,000 for growing three marijuana plants. “We are real pleased with the result,” Webb said afterward. “I think it sends a strong message that Saline County takes drug crimes seriously.” A message is being sent, all right, but I think it’s a different one. It is that we will continue to be treated like fools for exactly as long as we allow it.

Copyright ©1996, 1997 Arkansas Writers’ Project, Inc.
Reproduced with permission

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Sunday, May 4, 1997

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

By: Rodney Bowers

HOT SPRINGS — A Malvern jewelry store owner may have been working with the Drug Enforcement Administration when she was charged with helping arrange a robbery that resulted in the shooting of a Hot Springs man, court records show.

Kay LaJean O’Brien and three other suspects never stood trial for the 1995 robbery and shooting of David Yacub. However, federal officials later convicted O’Brien and two of the suspects on drug charges unrelated to the crimes against Yacub.

O’Brien likely will be a witness in the upcoming federal racketeering case against former Prosecuting Attorney Dan Harmon> of Benton. Harmon’s indictment charges he attempted to extort money from O’Brien and an alleged drug dealer.

Around noon on Sept. 14, 1995, Yacub, 37, and a friend, Derrick Allan Danecki, 31, were working in Yacub’s driveway at 204 Clairmont St. in Hot Springs when a late-model gray car drove up, according to an affidavit filed in the Garland County case. Yacub and Danecki told police two Hispanic men dressed in business suits got out, produced badges and identified themselves as Hot Springs police officers.

The men then pulled out 9mm handguns and ordered Yacub and Danecki to the ground. At that time, they were told they were being robbed, according to the affidavit.

Yacub said the two men then started toward his house, where his girlfriend was sleeping, and that he got up and began arguing with them. Danecki ran away.

Danecki told police he later heard four or five gunshots and returned to find Yacub wounded in the stomach, hand and leg. The men and the car were gone.

Police investigators said they began to piece the case together after an account of the shooting appeared in The Sentinel-Record in Hot Springs. A local motel manager called police and provided the license number of a car driven by two men staying at the motel. The manager said the men and car matched descriptions provided in the newspaper article.

Police traced the car to a local rental agency, where they found two business suits in the back of the vehicle. The manager of the rental agency told police that Greg Duain Kincannon, 33, of Hot Springs rented the car Sept. 13, 1995, and brought it back the next day, the day of the shooting. Kincannon was contacted and asked to retrieve the clothing left in the car. Police arrested him when he arrived at the rental agency, the affidavit states.

Kincannon allegedly confessed to the robbery, according to the affidavit, and said O’Brien, then 25, contacted the Hispanics, rented their motel room and helped purchase the suits they wore. The affidavit said employees at a local retail store also confirmed the sales and identified the people who bought the clothing.

Garland County authorities charged Kincannon with conspiracy to commit robbery and arrested O’Brien on the same charge Sept. 21, 1995. Prosecutors later issued warrants charging Gustavo Gonzalez and Miguel Cuevas, both 32 and from the Los Angeles area, with attempted capital murder in Yacub’s shooting.

Within about a month of O’Brien’s arrest, Prosecuting Attorney Paul Bosson of Hot Springs entered a motion in Circuit Court seeking the dismissal of two 1994 drug charges against her.

“In December 1994,” Bosson said in the motion, “officials with DEA and Customs requested to the undersigned that they would take this case for federal prosecution. Supposedly, the defendant [O’Brien] has signed an agreement with federal authorities and agreed to assist them. To date, there has been no federal legal action against the defendant and the state speedy trial time has been exhausted.”

Asked this week if O’Brien was working with federal agents when she allegedly participated in the robbery of Yacub, Bosson said: “You’d have to ask them that, but it was my understanding that she was.”

Federal authorities, however, declined to discuss O’Brien’s status in September 1995.

William Payne, agent in charge of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in Little Rock, said: “I couldn’t possibly answer that.” He said DEA policy prevents him from

Gene King, U.S. Customs Service agent in charge of Arkansas, said his office had assigned an officer to work with the DEA on a case involving O’Brien, but added, “I cannot comment on their investigation.”

However, he said, “I can tell you we don’t have an open case on Kay LaJean O’Brien.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Johnson, whose office isbr prosecuting the Harmon case in Little Rock, said he, too, could not address whether O’Brien was cooperating with the DEA in September 1995. But, he said, “I can tell you she was prosecuted in federal court.”

Johnson said O’Brien received 135 months in prison in October 1996 for drug convictions resulting from a December 1995 indictment. He said she also testified against Cuevas in that case, and that he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole in December 1996. Kincannon, who also testified against Cuevas, received 28 months in prison, he said. Johnson said Gonzales was charged in the indictment but remains a fugitive.

Computerized records in the U.S. District Court clerks’ offices in the Eastern and Western districts of Arkansas, however, show no criminal charges have been filed in the Hot Springs robbery and shooting.

Bosson withdrew the state charge against O’Brien in the Yacub robbery in July 1996. He stated in court records that federal authorities had sentenced her on unspecified charges. Bosson also withdrew charges the following month against Kincannon, and those against Cuevas and Gonzalez in October. He cited pending federal prosecution.

Yacub, who claims to have a bullet lodged near his spine, has filed a civil lawsuit in Garland County, seeking monetary damages from O’Brien, Kincannon, Cuevas and Gonzalez. The case remains open.

Meanwhile, O’Brien is expected to testify in the racketeering case against Harmon, the former prosecutor for Grant, Hot Spring and Saline counties; her former attorney, Bill Murphy of Sheridan; and others allegedly involved with illegal activitiesr tied to the 7th Judicial District Drug Task Force and its employees.

The racketeering indictment, among other things, accuses Harmon and Murphy of extorting about $60,000 from O’Brien and Freddie S. McCaslin, an alleged drug dealer in Garland and Saline counties.

The trial is set to begin May 27 in U.S. District Court a Little Rock

Copyright 1997, Little Rock Newspapers, Inc. All rights reserved.

Reproduced with permission

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Thursday, May 8, 1997

ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

By: Linda Friedlieb

A drug dealer sentenced to 40 years in prison filed suit Tuesday lleging his rights were violated when former Prosecuting Attorney Dan Harmon of Benton tried to extort thousands of dollars from him in exchange for a lenient sentence.

Jimmy Doyle Bumgardner, 26, of Sheridan filed a federal complaint seeking relief from his 40 year sentence, citing Harmon’s federal indictment on racketeering, drug and extortion charges.

“Petitioner was extorted for money to reduce the sentence, he did not pay it, and his sentence was not reduced,” says the complaint, filed by Little Rock attorney John Wesley Hall Jr. “Also, false testimony was given at his suppression hearing to facilitate the plan.”

Bumgardner is the first person to file a federal challenge to his conviction and sentence since Harmon, the former prosecuting attorney for Grant, Saline and Hot Spring counties, was indicted in April.

Harmon was prosecuting attorney for the 7th Judicial District from 1979-80 and from 1991 to July 1996, when he resigned after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges in state court.

The indictment alleges that Harmon ran his office as an “organized criminal enterprise” and repeatedly demanded money from those he was supposed to be prosecuting in exchange for lighter sentences or release.

“I cant predict whether we’ll see any more [such lawsuits] or not,” Kelly Hill, a deputy attorney general, said. “The allegations may be made, but they’re going to have to be proved.”

Hill said she hadn’t read the complaint and couldn’t comment. Representatives from the U.S. attorney’s office prosecuting Harmon and his seven codefendants also declined to comment. Harmon denied trying to get money from Bumgardner.

“Jimmy pleaded guilty to 40 years,” Harmon said. “I don’t know of any relief he’d be entitled to after all this time.”

Bumgardner admits in his complaint that he was a drug dealer. He pleaded guilty April 2l, 1994, in Grant County to drug charges and was sentenced to 40 years.

He pleaded guilty simultaneously to a Saline County drug charge and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, to be served at the same time. He pleaded guilty to a drug charge two months later in Faulkner County and was sentenced to seven years in prison, to be served simultaneously with his other sentences.

But Bumgardner is challenging only the Grant County conviction, claiming he would be eligible for parole without the 40-year sentence.

Bumgardner’s suit alleges that Roger Walls, the former head of the drug task force based in Harmon’s office, lied under oath at a hearing in his case to help set up the extortion scheme. Walls is charged with Harmon in the indictment.

The complaint also says a defense attorney told Bumgardner that if he paid $30,000 his sentence would be reduced. The defense attorney, now deceased and not’ named in the complaint, later told him the puce was $40,000.

The complaint contends Bumgardner thought he was paying a fine, but when he tried to pay $10,000 toward the obligation, Harmon wouldn’t accept a check that was when he realized the “payment to reduce the sentence was not for a lawful purpose,” according to the suit.

Jack Lassiter, Walls attorney, said his client didn’t participate in any extortion scheme.

“Walls said that he did not perjure himself at that hearing or any other,”
Lassiter said

“He did not participate in extorting money from anyone, and he didn’t lie in court”

Reproduced with permission

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May 9, 1997

The Wall Street Journal
Letters to the Editor

Micah Morrison’s April 15 article, “Big News From Arkansas,” reported ex-prosecutor Dan Harmon was indicted for running his office as a criminal enterprise. Just as newsworthy is the absence of any reference in the indictments to what I believe, based on my investigation, to be Mr. Harmon’s involvement in the murders of Kevin Ives and Don Henry, the nationally known train deaths case.

Under the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations law, Mr. Harmon could be charged with crimes committed up to 10 years ago, but his indictment only goes back to August 1991. Just two months before that, in June 1991, then-U.S. Attorney Chuck Banks cleared Mr. Harmon of drug-corruption allegations strikingly similar to the ones he now faces. The obvious question arises: Is current U.S. Attorney Paula Casey protecting Mr. Banks? It’s hard to ignore that the August 1991 starting date of Mr. Harmon’s indictment shields Mr. Banks from the appearance of impropriety and excludes evidence related to the train deaths.

In 1990, as head of a drug task force in the area, I gathered a significant amount of evidence against Mr. Harmon, as well as evidence connecting drugs and public officials to the train deaths. I was stunned when Mr. Banks cleared Mr. Harmon and all other public officials in 1991. I believe that, in this regard, the years of covering up the train deaths case continues.

Mr. Morrison has eloquently unraveled the complex story surrounding the train deaths, but in one case he left the wrong impression. He wrote, “Ms. Duffey left the state when Mr. Harmon filed charges against her, later found to be baseless.” I’m not so easily intimidated.

In 1990, my task force uncovered too much. I was brutalized by an Arkansas media that supported Mr. Harmon, who was running for and won our district’s prosecutor position. Mr. Harmon immediately subpoenaed the evidence I had against him and other public officials. But to protect witnesses, I refused to comply. Circuit Judge John Cole then issued a felony warrant for my arrest, and my family was warned from two law enforcement agencies that I was going to be killed. Discredited, defeated, and threatened, my husband and I moved our family to Texas.

I didn’t understand the power of the political machine back then, but after being persuaded by the FBI to assist in an investigation they opened in 1994, I learned of connections to the CIA, Mena, and drug-smuggling. I finally understood; to solve the train deaths case would be to expose the crimes of Mena, and no government agent who has come close to doing either has survived professionally.

The Arkansas media have mostly realized their misjudgment of me, with the exception of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The most important paper in the state either ignores or ridicules the facts surrounding the profoundly disturbing train deaths case. I pray Micah Morrison and The Wall Street Journal will continue to expose the deep-rooted corruption in Arkansas. People deserve to have sources of information that will not back away from the truth.

Jean K. Duffey
Pasadena, Texas

Copyright © 1997 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Reproduced with permission

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MAY 17, 1997

ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

By: Linda Friedlieb

Former Prosecuting Attorney Dan Harmon is now scheduled to stand trial alone May 27 on federal drug, conspiracy and extortion> charges.

Chief U.S. District Judge Stephen M. Reasoner decided Frday to sever Harmon’s case from those of his seven co-defendants after several other defendants in the case asked for a postponement. Reasoner said he could not reschedule the case before January because of conflicts on his calendar. The case is expected to take about three weeks.

“We get paid anyway, whether we try the case once or twice,” Reasoner told Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Stripling, who is prosecuting the case for the government.

Stripling objected to the severance and refused to comment after the hearing Friday.

A federal grand jury indicted Harmon, the former prosecuting attorney of the 7th Judicial District, on 11 charges in April. Harmon, along with Sheridan businessman Roger C. Walls and Sheridan attorney William A. Murphy, are accused of running the prosecuting attorney’s office as an organized criminal enterprise in violation of the federal Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act.

As part of that charge, 11 separate> crimes are listed, 10 of which are also charged separately. Besides the racketeering charge, Harmon faces two counts of possession with the intent to distribute cocaine hydrochloride, four counts of conspiracy to extort money, three of conspiracy to manufacture drugs, one of witness tampering and one of retaliation against a witness.

Reasoner decided Friday to continue the cases against Walls, Murphy, Holly DuVall and John Milton Steward. DuVall, who is Harmon’s former wife, and Steward are named but not charged in the racketeering count and face related charges. Reasoner said a trial for the four would be set for> January.

Two more co-defendants Thakor N. Patel and Pravin N. Patel will be tried separately along with Walls on charges of making false statements to a financial institution and money laundering. A date has not been set for that trial.

The final co-defendant, Arturo Valdez of San Antonio, has a warrant pending for his arrest.

“I’m ready tomorrow. I’m delighted,” Harmon said after the hearing. “I just want my trial. I don’t care who I am tried with. I have no doubt they are all innocent.”

Harmon, who had previously asked to represent himself, told Reasoner on Friday that he wanted Little Rock attorney Lea Ellen Fowler to be lead counsel on the case. Harmon had previously asked the court to appoint a female attorney after two male attorneys appointed to back up Harmon were forced off the case because of conflicts.

Fowler told the judge she had not received “one stick of discovery.” She also asked for, and was granted, an investigator to aid her in preparing a defense.

Stripling indicated to the court that a room full of materials remains available for Fowler’s perusal.

Reasoner said part of the reason his docket is so crowded is the second trial of former Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker and his two co-defendants.

That trial, expected to last at least a month, was rescheduled for September after Reasoner granted a nine-month continuance because of Tucker’s ill health despite the objection of John Haley, one of Tucker’s co-defendants who himself had asked that his case be severed and go to trial immediately.

“It’s quite clear under the Speedy Trial Act that my docket is not an excludable reason,” Reasoner said. “I just think we would be looking at Mr. Harmon being entitled to a dismissal” if his case was postponed until January over his objection.

Copyright 1997, Little Rock Newspapers, Inc. All rights reserved.

Reproduced with permission

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May 27, 1997

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

By: Linda Friedlieb

Is Dan Harmon a cunning racketeer who used his position as prosecuting attorney to obtain illicit drugs, money and sex, or is he the victim of powerful federal investigators trying to railroad him for their own nefarious purposes?

Federal prosecutors will set out to prove the former image while Harmon maintains the latter as the trial of the former prosecuting attorney of the state’s 7th Judicial District kicks off with jury selection today. The question’s answer will be left to a federal jury that, under the supervision of Chief U.S. District Judge Stephen M. Reasoner, should get the case next month.

Harmon, 52, faces 11 charges under an indictment the grand jury handed up in April, including a charge that he ran his prosecuting attorney’s office as a corrupt organization in violation of the federal Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations act. The 7th Judicial District includes Saline, Grant and Hot Spring counties.

The indictment also includes two counts of possession with the intent to distribute cocaine hydrochloride, four of conspiracy to extort money, two of conspiracy to manufacture drugs, one of witness tampering and one of retaliation against a witness.

Harmon repeatedly has denied all the allegations, once calling the charges “something out of Alice in Wonderland.”

“It takes a lot of courage to stand up to the federal government,” Harmon said Friday. “I had no idea that our government is this vindictive and this political.”

Harmon was indicted with seven co-defendants, including defense attorney Bill Murphy and Sheridan businessman Roger Walls, who share the racketeering charge. Walls headed the drug task force based in Harmon’s office.

But Harmon will be tried alone because he was the only defendant to object to postponing the trial. All of the other defendants either requested or indicated they did not object to a continuance. Walls and Murphy are scheduled for trial together with two other co-defendants in January.

Meanwhile, Harmon said he and his attorney, Lea Ellen Fowler of Little Rock, have had a difficult time preparing for trial.

“I’ve had a week of playing basketball,” Harmon said. “There’s nothing you can do to prepare when you don’t have the names of the witnesses. … You have no idea what they’re going to say because it’s all so fantastic.”

“It’s strictly trial by ambush,” he said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Stripling has said in court that a room full of discovery evidence at the FBI office in Little Rock is open to the defense attorneys and their clients. Stripling, who is prosecuting Harmon, and U.S. Attorney Paula Casey declined to comment on the case.

“The judge severed Harmon and told us to be ready for trial, so we’ll be ready for trial,” Casey said Thursday.

When Harmon and his co-defendants were indicted, the defense attorneys immediately went on the attack, criticizing the government’s witnesses as a bunch of criminals looking for revenge against the man who put them in prison. The credibility of the government’s case may depend partly on the credibility of witnesses who have criminal records or have accepted plea agreements.

One key witness may be Harmon’s ex-wife, Holly DuVall.

Before Harmon was indicted, DuVall faced two drug charges in federal court, including possession of more than 1 kilogram of cocaine allegedly stolen from the 7th Judicial District Drug Task Force evidence locker. While indicting Harmon, the grand jury eliminated the drug charges against DuVall and charged her with the lesser offense of misprision — knowing about but not reporting a felony.

According to the indictment, DuVall and Harmon, while married, broke into the task force evidence locker and stole the cocaine. DuVall is expected to plead guilty to the lesser offense and testify against her ex-husband.

DuVall is named but not indicted in another count in which she allegedly possessed with the intent to distribute marijuana with Harmon and two co-defendants, John M. Steward of Benton and Arturo Valdez of San Antonio. Steward and Valdez are charged only in that count, and an arrest warrant is pending for Valdez.

For those indicted with Harmon, the trial beginning today will be an opportunity to observe the prosecution’s case. As he left the courthouse a few weeks ago after Reasoner set the two trial dates, Murphy’s attorney, Stuart Vess, said he would order a transcript of Harmon’s trial.

Two defendants, Thakor N. and Pravin N. Patel, are charged in money laundering counts with Walls. Reasoner agreed that those charges should be handled in a third trial, which has yet to be scheduled.

In the racketeering charge, Harmon as prosecutor, Walls as drug task force head and Murphy as defense attorney are accused of running the prosecuting attorney’s office as a criminal enterprise to extort money and confiscate drugs. Ten acts are delineated in the charge.

One of the acts, listed as retaliation against a witness, deals with Harmon’s May 1996 assault on Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Benton bureau chief Rodney Bowers, who investigated and wrote about Harmon’s activities and the drug task force throughout 1995 and 1996. Harmon attacked Bowers after the reporter approached the then-prosecutor seeking comment for an article about forfeiture of property seized by the drug task force.

The four charges on conspiracy to extort deal with sums up to $100,000.

In one incident described in the indictment, a woman named Tina Davis traveled to Arkansas from Indiana to deliver $10,000 to her husband, who had been arrested in Saline County on marijuana charges.

When she arrived, the indictment says, Harmon advised Davis that her husband would not be released unless she got more money or had sex with the prosecutor. The husband was later released for $10,000 and the couple was forced to sign a disclaimer saying the two had been arrested with the money and had no claim to it, the indictment says.

In the other extortion cases, the indictment alleges, Harmon took money for releasing defendants from custody or reducing the charges they faced in state drug cases.

Copyright 1997, Little Rock Newspapers, Inc. All rights reserved.

Reproduced with permission

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Friday, June 27, 1997

Arkansas Times

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.

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Dan Harmon's Downfall Continued

Tuesday, October 7, 1997

ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

BY LINDA FRIEDLIEB

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.

Copyright 1997, Little Rock Newspapers, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Wednesday, October 8, 1997

ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

BY LINDA FRIEDLIEB

A drug arrest, improper travel and substance abuse test problems led federal prosecutors Tuesday to ask a federal judge to keep Dan Harmon behind bars.

Saturday morning, Harmon was arrested in Conway when he allegedly tried to bring methamphetamine to a girlfriend’s house for them to share, and he has been in Pulaski County jail since then.

A motion filed in federal court in Little Rock Tuesday alleged that Harmon, a former prosecuting attorney, violated the conditions of his supervised release pending his sentencing in four ways:

    • Traveling without permission to Conway while on home detention with electronic monitoring.
    • Being arrested by the FBI for attempting to possess methamphetamine with the intent to distribute it.
    • Possessing a bottle of urine that Harmon admitted he was going to use as a substitute for his next drug test.
    • Providing a urine specimen which tested positive for methamphetamine.

Harmon had been free under the supervision of the U.S. Pretrial Services and Probation Department since his June conviction on five felony charges.

At a hearing Monday, Harmon attempted to enter an innocent plea to the new charge but was told it was the wrong time. He is scheduled to be back in court Friday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Jones on that charge for a probable cause and detention hearing. Information on the new charge will be presented to a federal grand jury next week.

Meanwhile, Chief U.S. District Judge Stephen M. Reasoner will hear the motion to revoke his bond in the older case, in which Harman was convicted of one count each of racketeering and possession with the intent to distribute marijuana and three counts of conspiracy to commit extortion. Neither a hearing on the revocation nor a sentencing hearing have been set.

Lea Ellen Fowler, Harmon’s attorney, did not return phone calls Tuesday.

On Saturday, Harmon allegedly tried to bring methamphetamine to Patricia Vaughn, a girlfriend who testified against him during the racketeering trial. When confronted by an FBI agent, Harmon ran and jumped into a pond on the apartment complex, court papers said. After moving about in the water, he returned to dry land and was arrested.

The court papers also indicated the existence of six tape recordings of conversations between Harmon and Vaughn discussing his alleged plan to bring her drugs for them to share.

After Harmon’s conviction in June, Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Stripling asked Reasoner to detain Harmon, claiming Harman was a threat to witnesses in the case. Reasoner instead placed Harmon on home detention with electronic monitoring, which allowed him to leave his Benton home only to work.

Harmon, 52, was prosecuting attorney for the 7th Judicial District of Hot Spring, Saline and Grant counties from 1990 through 1996 when he resigned as part of a state plea bargain in which Harmon pleaded guilty and no contest respectively to two misdemeanors.

He held the same office for two years a decade earlier.

Copyright 1997, Little Rock Newspapers, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Friday, October 10, 1997

ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

Ex-prosecutor agrees to await sentencing

BY LINDA FRIEDLIEB

Former Prosecuting Attorney Dan Harmon agreed Thursday to remain behind bars until his sentencing on five federal felonies.

Harmon, 52, of Benton, has been in the Pulaski County jail since Saturday when he was arrested on a complaint of attempting to possess with the intent to distribute methamphetamine. According to court papers, Harmon jumped into a lake at a Conway apartment complex while fleeing FBI agents trying to arrest him.

Harmon also is accused of tampering with a drug test, testing positive for methamphetamine use and violating his electronically monitored home detention by traveling to a girlfriend’s apartment in Conway.

Based on the four accusations, Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Stripling on Tuesday asked Chief U.S. District Judge Stephen M. Reasoner to revoke Harmon’s supervised release and put him behind bars until his sentencing, which has not been scheduled.

Harmon “does not contest the facts contained in the violations report,” Lea Ellen Fowler, Harmon’s attorney, wrote to Reasoner.

Harmon was convicted in June of racketeering, three counts of extortion and one count of possession with the intent to distribute marijuana. After the verdict, Harmon – who served the 7th Judicial District of Grant, Saline and Hot Spring counties – continued to proclaim his innocence and said he would appeal his convictions.

Reasoner did not enter a detention order Thursday.

However, U.S. Magistrate Judge Henry Jones on Thursday signed an order holding Harmon behind bars until his trial on the new federal drug charge stemming from Saturday’s arrest. Jones based his decision on a second letter from Fowler.

“After speaking with Mr. Harman, it is his desire to waive his right to a preliminary examination and formal detention hearing,” Fowler wrote. “Mr. Harmon does not contest detention in this matter. For the record, I concur with Mr. Harmon’s decision based upon the information I have been provided by the government thus far.”

Harmon is expected to be indicted on the new charge when the federal grand jury meets next week.

Fowler was out of the office and could not be reached for comment Thursday.

U.S. Attorney Paula Casey said Harmon’s decision not to contest his detention will not affect his ability to defend himself from the latest charge.

Copyright 1997, Little Rock Newspapers, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Thursday, October 16, 1997

ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

BY LINDA FRIEDLIEB

A federal grand jury indicted former Prosecuting Attorney Dan Harman on four drug-related charges Wednesday, less than two weeks after Harmon jumped in a pond to evade FBI agents.

Sheridan attorney Bill Murphy, one of Harmon’s co-defendants in an earlier racketeering case, also was accused of new crimes by the grand jury Wednesday.

Harmon, 52, of Benton, was indicted on two counts of using the telephone to further a drug transaction, one count of possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine and one count of attempting to distribute methamphetamine.

If convicted, Harmon’s sentence could be increased up to 10 years because the alleged crimes took place while Harmon was under court supervision.
Harmon’s attorney, Lea Ellen Fowler, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

After a three-week trial, Harmon was convicted in June of racketeering, three counts of extortion and one count of possession with the intent to distribute marijuana. He was found innocent of seven additional charges. No sentencing date has been set for his convictions, which Harmon has vowed to appeal.

Harmon has been behind bars since Oct. 4, when he allegedly tried to bring methamphetamine to a girlfriend’s apartment in Conway. At the time, Harmon was supposed to be on home detention with electronic monitoring.
When confronted by the FBI, Harmon ran through the apartment complex and jumped into a pond with his clothes on, where he moved about under water before exiting the pond and allowing himself to be taken into custody, court papers said.

Harmon filed court papers after his arrest agreeing to remain behind bars until his sentencing on the old charges and his trial on the new.

Using the telephone to aid in a drug transaction carries a maximum penalty of eight years in prison and a $60,000 fine. The other two charges carry maximum penalties of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The enhancement for committing the crime while under court supervision could add up to 10 years in prison. Sentences are governed by the federal sentencing guidelines.

Murphy was indicted Wednesday for conspiring to have people lie under oath and two counts of convincing individuals to lie under oath.

Henry E. Wells of Sheridan is also indicted on one count of conspiring to have people commit perjury, one count of convincing someone to lie under oath and a third charge of making a false statement before the grand jury.

The charges arose out of a scheme in which Murphy allegedly accepted a $30,000 loan from three men, one of whom was a client and a methamphetamine dealer, the indictment said. The money, it added, was used to pay off $25,900 that Murphy’s wife owed to the Kroger Company.

Murphy and Wells allegedly told Billy Wright, the methamphetamine dealer, to lie to U.S. Magistrate Judge Jerry W. Cavaneau about a promissory note and the payment made to Murphy and Wells. Murphy also allegedly told his wife, Sandra, to lie to the grand jury when she testified before it last May. Wells also allegedly lied to the grand jury when he testified last May.

Copyright 1997, Little Rock Newspapers, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Thursday, October 23, 1997

ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

BY SHAREESE KONDO

A federal judge Wednesday sentenced Holly DuVall to three years’ probation with the condition that she stay away from drugs and alcohol and continue her treatment for substance abuse.

DuVall, the ex-wife of former Saline County Prosecutor Dam Harmon, cooperated with federal prosecutors to escape more damaging drug charges. She was married to Harmon from 1992 to 1995.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Stripling told Chief U.S. District Judge Stephen Reasoner in federal District Court at Little Rock that it was DuVall’s willingness to cooperate and testify that solidified their case against Harmon.

Harmon, 52, was prosecuting attorney for the 7th Judicial District – Hot Spring, Saline and Grant counties – from 1990 through 1995 when he resigned as part of a plea bargain in which he pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor and no contest to another.

In June, a federal jury convicted Harmon of racketeering, three counts of extortion and one count of possession with the intent to distribute marijuana.

Harmon was on home arrest awaiting sentencing on his federal conviction until his Oct. 4 arrest on new drug charges. Last week he was indicted on a charge of using the telephone to further a drug transaction, one count of possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine and one count of attempting to distribute methamphetamine.

If convicted, Harmon’s sentence could be increased up to 10 years because the alleged crimes took place while Harmon was under court supervision.

“I can’t think of any other witness that has been as forthright as Ms. DuVall,” Stripling told Reasoner.

Stripling said DuVall also led them to Patricia Vaughn, a friend of Harmon who testified against him in his first trial, and apparently persuaded Vaughn to cooperate with federal prosecutors.

Vaughn taped six conversations she had with Harmon during the last week of September and first week of October where he promised to share drugs with her. These tapes were among evidence used to bring the new charges against Harmon.

DuVall, 28 was indicted on a charge of knowing about the commission of felony and not reporting it. She could have been sentenced to three years in prison, up to a $250,000 fine, or both.

While married to Harmon, DuVall was accused of breaking into a drug bask force evidence locker with him in October 1995 and stealing more than one kilogram of cocaine.

After agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors, other charges against DuVall – possession of 1.1 kilograms of cocaine and conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute – were dropped.

As part of her probation she must continue attending a drug abuse treatment program where she is tested weekly for drug use.

Reasoner also fined her $1,000 to be paid in $35 monthly installments, and a $50 mandatory assessment fee.

DuVall told Reasoner that she’s been clean of drugs for about a year. She works at an automobile dealership in Benton and plans to live with her parents.

Copyright 1997, Little Rock Newspapers, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Friday, October 24, 1997

ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

BY JOE STUMPE

Former Prosecuting Attorney Dan Harmon of Benton and an alleged associate asked for jury trials during their arraignment in federal court Thursday.

Harmon, 52, faces charges of using a telephone to further a drug transaction, possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and attempting to distribute methamphetamine.

Harmon, who was convicted of racketeering and other charges in June, was supposed to be on home detention awaiting sentencing when he was arrested Oct. 4 for allegedly trying to bring methamphetamine to a girlfriend’s apartment in Conway. He has been in custody since that time.

Thursday, he waived a formal reading of the new charges against him and pleaded innocent. His trial is set for Nov. 24 before U.S. District Judge Henry Woods, but Harman’s attorney, Lea Ellen Fowler, has already asked for a delay.

Sheridan lawyer Bill Murphy, Harmon’s co-defendant in the racketeering case, was indicted last week on new charges — one count of conspiring to have people lie under oath and two counts of convincing individuals to lie under oath. He pleaded innocent to the charges at Thursday’s hearing.

Murphy also faces one count of racketeering, two counts of conspiring to extort money and one count of bank fraud in the earlier case. Murphy is scheduled for trial in January on these charges.

At Murphy’s request, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jerry W. Caveneau appointed an attorney to represent Murphy, who said he has no money but does own property.

“I’ve been trying to sell this property for several months now,” Murphy said.

Caveneau told Murphy he may have to reimburse the government for the cost of his defense.

Henry E. Wells was indicted with Murphy last week on charges of conspiring to have people lie to the grand jury, convincing someone to lie under oath and making a false statement to the grand jury. Wells also pleaded innocent.

Caveneau allowed Murphy and Wells to remain free on their personal recognizance. They are scheduled for trial Nov. 24 before U.S. District Judge Susan Webber Wright.

Copyright 1997, Little Rock Newspapers, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Wednesday, December 10, 1997

ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

Jailed ex-prosecutor asks for new attorney

LINDA FRIEDLIEB

Former Prosecuting Attorney Dan Harmon of Benton told a federal judge about his dissatisfaction with his defense attorney in a handwritten letter filed Tuesday at the federal courthouse in Little Rock.

“I do not want to cause her any embarrassment but I’m locked in a concrete closet 23 hours a day and have questions to ask of her to see if and when the sentencing will be and if there is any preparation that needs to be done,” Harmon wrote of his defense attorney Lea Ellen Fowler.

In his letter, Harmon claimed that Fowler’s secretary hangs up on him when he calls and his letters to her go unanswered.

Chief U.S. District Judge Stephen M. Reasoner ordered Harmon’s letter filed as a motion for a new attorney.

In the letter, Harmon requests that lawyer Bruce Eddy be appointed to assist Fowler, which resulted in Reasoner asking Eddy to respond whether he is willing to accept appointment. Eddy almost became Harmon’s attorney last spring but stepped aside because of a conflict, which Harmon insists has been resolved.

On Tuesday, Fowler said she had no comment about Harmon’s letter. Eddy, who has recently taken a position with the state’s Public Defender Commission, said he is willing to help Harmon but uncertain if he can because of his new job.

Harmon has been in the Pulaski County jail since his Oct. 4 arrest after allegedly trying to bring methamphetamine to a girlfriend’s Conway apartment while on home detention with electronic monitoring for earlier convictions. He was indicted on four drug charges related to the Conway incident Oct. 15.

But Harmon, who served as prosecuting attorney for the 7th Judicial District from 1990 through 1996, is also awaiting sentencing by Reasoner on five charges that he was convicted of in June. Those charges are racketeering, three counts of attempting to commit extortion and one count of possession with the intent to distribute marijuana.

“I am very much dissatisfied with my attorney,” Harmon wrote in his handwritten missive. “Since my stay began in the Pulaski County jail, I have had one brief conversation with her at the courthouse at the time of my arraignment. It is now nine weeks.”

Harmon also used the letter to complain about jail conditions, including the deteriorating condition of his teeth. Harmon said that before his arrest he had planned to have oral surgery and that he has lost two fillings during his incarceration.

At the bottom of the letter, Harmon also notes: “Protective custody is a euphemism for solitary confinement.”

Copyright 1997, Little Rock Newspapers, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Saturday, December 20, 1997

ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

A federal judge Wednesday rejected former Prosecuting Attorney Dan Harmon’s attempt to obtain a new lawyer before his sentencing on five federal felony charges and his trail on four new drug charges.

Harmon, who was convicted in June on racketeering, extortion and drug charges involving misuse of his elected office, complained to Chief U.S. District Judge Stephen M. Reasoner in a letter earlier this month that he was having problems communicating with his lawyer, Lea Ellen Fowler of Little Rock.

Fowler responded to the court that she has continued to “work diligently to zealously represent Mr. Harmon,” and that she had talked with Harmon several times since he has been in Pulaski County jail and has talked with his sister several times each week.

Fowler also said she was looking into what could be done about Harmon’s dental problems. Harmon complained in his letter about problems with his teeth, including the loss of two fillings while incarcerated.

No sentencing date has been set for Harmon, nor has a trial date been set in the second criminal case, which is before U.S. District Judge Henry Woods.

Copyright 1997, Little Rock Newspapers, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Tuesday, January 6, 1998

ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

BY LINDA FRIEDLIEB

The length of former Prosecuting Attorney Dan Harmon’s sentence could hinge on whether he used threats to extort money from criminals or merely accepted bribes from individuals seeking to avoid prosecution.

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 Harmon’s 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.

“There’s 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 don’t 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 to encourage his victims to turn over money and drugs.

“The threat … was not only incarceration but that they would be maxed out, that they would get the most severe punishment,” Vena said.

Fowler contested those assertions, saying that the testimony from Harmon’s three-week trial did not back up the prosecution’s 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 Harmon’s Oct. 4 arrest and formally revoked the former prosecutor’s 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 Stripling’s 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 $250,000 fine.

Copyright 1997, Little Rock Newspapers, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Thursday, March 19, 1998

The Benton Courier

The ex-prosecutor still hasn’t been sentenced on five earlier convictions

By Jerry BreedenCourier
Staff Writer

Yet to be sentenced on five previous convictions, former 7th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Dan Harmon of Benton is to appear April 13 for what would be his second federal court trial in 10 months.

Harmon, 53, was convicted in U.S. District Court at Little Rock last June 11 on five of 11 federal grand jury indictments. The trial began May 27.

The jury found Harmon guilty of one count of racketeering, three of extortion and one of distributing marijuana.

The offenses allegedly occurred while Harmon was prosecuting attorney and, as such, overseer of the now-defunct 7th Judicial District Drug Task Force.

Each conviction carries a possible maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. However, it doesn’t appear likely — for now, at least — that Harmon will draw the maximum.

He was found innocent of one count each of possession of a Schedule II controlled substance with the intent to distribute, extortion, conspiracy to manufacture a Schedule II controlled substance, witness tampering and retaliation against a federal informant.

From her office in Little Rock, U.S. Attorney Paula Casey said a date for Harmon’s sentencing on the five convictions has not been set.

She noted that 16 days ago, on March 3, U.S. District Judge Stephen M. Reasoner directed federal probation office investigators to revise their initial presentencing report on Harmon.

Harmon’s attorney, Lea Ellen Fowler of Little Rock, argued successfully for a reduction in the severity level of the offenses of which Harmon was convicted.

“That could affect the sentence Mr. Harmon will ultimately receive,” said Casey. “We’ll just have to wait and see how the judge rules when we go back to court on the revised presentencing report.”

The memorandum ordering the revision of Harmon’s presentencing report consists of 13 pages. Signed by Judge Reasoner, it also contains a notation concerning Roger Walls, former administrator of the task force under Harmon, and criminal defense attorney William Murphy.

Walls and Murphy, the document notes, were also indicted on one count each of racketeering. A motion by the government to dismiss the charges against Walls and Murphy was granted.

Last Jan. 14, the notation relates, Walls was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit extortion and acquitted of another.

As for Murphy, the memorandum states that in exchange for his guilty plea “in a separate criminal proceeding, all charges pending against him in the present case were dismissed.”

Harmon probably will remain in federal custody at the Pulaski County Detention Facility in Little Rock until his latest trial next month before U.S. District Judge Henry Woods.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Stripling — who prosecuted Harmon during the first trial last spring — will present the government’s latest case against the former prosecutor for Saline, Grant and Hot Spring counties.

He will be tried on four drug related indictments returned by a federal grand jury last October. The indictments accuse Harmon of twice using a telephone in the course of carrying out drug transactions and of twice being in possession of methamphetamine-cocaine hydrochloride with the intent to deliver.

The phone-connected charges each carries a penalty of no more than eight years in the penitentiary, plus a maximum fine of $60,000.

The possession-with-intent charges are each punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of no more than $1 million.

In addition, Stripling is asking that an enhancement use be added to the charges.

That could extend the maximum total penalty possible by 10 years.

The latest indictments stem from Harmon’s alleged activities while he was on home-detention release pending sentencing on the June convictions.

Stipulations prior to his release included that he wear an electronic tracking device on his ankle. He was to travel only to and from work and was not to leave Saline County.

During most of the time Harmon was on release, he worked as a laborer helping clean up the eastern part of the county where a killer-tornado touched down the previous March.

Using information gathered through wiretaps, FBI agents arrested Harmon in Conway last Oct. 4.

Special Agent Cheryl Schaller at the time said federal authorities had taped conversations between Harmon and a girlfriend, Patricia Vaughn.

The indictment reflects that on the night of Oct. 3, Harmon left a telephoned message on Vaughn’s answering machine. He allegedly said “he had obtained the methamphetamine and would be bringing it to her apartment in Conway …”

The document also states that Vaughn returned Harmon’s call and that he “confirmed that he had obtained the methamphetamine and would drive to Conway …bringing the methamphetamine with him for their use the next morning.”

FBI agents were waiting for Harmon when he arrived at the apartment complex, Schaller said.

She said Harmon broke and ran as agents approached him. She said he dived into a pond on the complex grounds. Seconds later, with agents standing at water’s edge, Harmon stood up, Schaller said.

She said Harmon was standing waist-deep in the water, then waded to the bank and surrendered to the waiting agents. He was still wearing the tracking device.

The federal officers reported finding only an ink pen wrapped in aluminum foil when they searched Harmon. They also quoted Vaughn as saying Harmon used foil to smoke methamphetamine.

A search of the vehicle Harmon allegedly had driven to Conway produced a bottle of urine, agents said. They found no drugs on Harmon or in the vehicle, Schaller noted.

Copyright 1998 American Publishing Co.

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Tuesday, April 14, 1998

ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

Girlfriend: Former prosecutor planned drug, sex party with her, female friend

BY SETH BLOMELEY

Dan Harmon was itching for Oct. 4, 199 7, to arrive, his girlfriend testified Monday in federal court.

Harmon planned to bring drugs and pornography tapes so the two could do the drugs and have sex with a third woman, prosecutors said. But when he drove to his girlfriends Conway apartment, the FBI was waiting.

Harmon was convicted Monday on four drug-related counts stemming from his Oct.. 4 arrest. The conviction concluded a one-day jury trial before U.S. District Judge Henry Woods.

Harmon, 53, former prosecuting attorney for Saline, Grant and Hot Spring counties, was found guilty of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, attempting to distribute methamphetamine and two counts of using a telephone to commit a controlled substance.

“He thinks he’s going to have sex and do drugs,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Pat Harris. “He thinks he’s died and gone to heaven. He’s a happy dude.”

But Harmon’s attorney, Lea Ellen Fowler, argued the FBI found no drugs; that the girlfriend, Patricia Vaughn, is a liar; and that her client never mentioned drugs on the telephone.

“She talks about … getting more [pornographic] movies, but I challenge you to listen to the tapes to see whether Mr. Harmon ever arranges a drug transaction,” Fowler said.

Harmon sat with a disgusted look during the trial. Before testimony, he hugged his sister, Donna Wright, before an officer ordered the two apart. After testifying, Harmon, in custody since the October arrest, asked his sister to buy him a Coke and a Snickers bar.

“I haven’t had one of those in six months,” he said.

At the time of the October incident in Faulkner County, Harmon was on probation for a June 1997 conviction on racketeering, conspiracy to commit extortion and conspiracy to distribute drugs. He was on supervised release pending sentencing and was only supposed to be at home, work or church; he was ordered not to leave Saline County.

Vaughn, 25, testified she had dated Harmon since September 1996. They had met earlier that year during his failed campaign for Saline County sheriff. Soon after they began dating, Harmon introduced her to methamphetamine, which they smoked 20 times in one weekend, she said.

She said the drug, which comes in powder form and can be inhaled, eaten or injected, increased her energy and that she and Harmon enjoyed sex more when using the drug. Not using the drug made her want more, killed her spirit and made her paranoid, she said. They moved in together in November 1996. Then Harmon said they needed to stop using drugs, she said, so he made her enter Bridgeway Hospital, a rehabilitation clinic in North Little Rock.

When she left after four days, Harmon continued using methamphetamine.

They briefly broke up three months later, but Harmon continued supplying her with the drug, she testified. Later Vaughn had a court date for a custody dispute with her ex-husband. She said Harmon instructed her to lie about using drugs “or the FBI would take my child away.”

They continued dating until September, when her friends confronted her about her drug use. Vaughn said she then called FBI agent Cheryl Schaller, whom she knew from an earlier trial involving Harmon where she had testified about using drugs with Harmon.

Agents tape-recorded phone conversations between Vaughn and Harmon on Oct. 2 and 3,1997. Her voice is clear on the recordings, but his is barely audible. Prosecutors gave jurors transcripts of the conversations.

During the Oct. 2 call, Vaughn tells Harmon she “needs some s***.” Harmon responds: “Shut up, I’ll talk to you later.”

On Oct. 3, Harmon again becomes upset when his girlfriend brings up drugs.

“No use taking chances,” he said.

Vaughn said Harmon asked her to get some drugs from a neighbor but she declined.

“He wanted us to have plenty of dope,” she said. “He thought he was going to get to have sex with me and my friend.”

The prosecution then played an answering machine message to Vaughn from Harmon: “This is your man. Everything is worked out. See you in the morning.”

FBI agents Schaller and Troy Shenevert testified they approached Harmon after he parked his car at Vaughn’s apartment in Conway the next morning. They said Harmon hesitated, then ran to a pond, dove in and stood up to his neck in water “fidgeting.”

After he was arrested, agents found no methamphetamine, which dissolves in water. However, a state chemist testified that traces of the drug were found on a piece of tinfoil in his pocket. Vaughn said to smoke the drug, it is placed on foil and lit, allowing the smoke to be inhaled through an empty pen. An ink pen was also found in Harmon’s pocket.

“This man is pretty smart,” Harris said, alleging Harmon dropped the drug in the water. Fowler argued Vaughn’s word can’t be trusted because she lied during the custody hearing. FBI agents said they granted her immunity from prosecution on drug charges and would ask state prosecutors not to charge her with perjury from the custody hearing.

No sentencing date was set for Harmon.

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Thursday, May 21, 1998

ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

LINDA FRIEDLIEB

Former Prosecuting Attorney Dan Harmon will spend eight years behind bars for racketeering, extortion and drug offenses and faces still more prison time for additional drug convictions.

“There is just something extraordinary about someone who is a prosecuting attorney misusing the judicial system, misusing the drug task force which is supposed to fight drugs,” Chief U.S. District Judge Stephen M. Reasoner observed Wednesday. “I don’t think the court has any choice but to impose the maximum.”

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Harmon, 53, of Benton faced between 78 and 97 months in prison for his five June 1997 convictions. A jury found Harmon guilty of one count of racketeering, three of conspiring to commit extortion and one of conspiring to possess and distribute marijuana. The racketeering charge concerned Harmon’s use of the 7th Judicial District prosecuting attorney’s office as an illegal crime organization to obtain drugs and money.

The prison time ordered by Reasoner will be followed by three years of supervised release, including drug testing. The judge also ordered Harmon to pay $16,000 in restitution to victims of two extortion schemes, a $25,000 fine and $300 in court costs.
Harmon was prosecuting attorney for the district, which includes Saline, Grant and Hot Spring counties, from 1979 until 1980 and then again from 1991 until 1996, when he was forced to resign in a plea agreement over state charges. At that time, he pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor and guilty to a second misdemeanor in state court.
Lea Ellen Fowler, Harmon’s attorney, said Harmon would appeal his federal convictions as well as the sentence Reasoner imposed Wednesday.

Harmon declined to speak at the hearing. Through his attorney, Harmon asked that he be imprisoned as close to home as possible and that he be allowed to participate in any prison work-incentive program so that he might contribute to the support of his 10-year-old son.

Fowler argued that Harmon, as a former law enforcement officer, would be vulnerable in prison and should be given the minimum sentence allowed.
But Harmon actually received less prison time than Assistant U.S. Attorneys Dan Stripling and George Vena wanted. They had argued unsuccessfully that a different sentencing guideline should be used to calculate Harmon’s offense level for the three extortion charges.

While Reasoner chose to follow guidelines dealing with bribery of a public official, the prosecutors wanted him to use a guideline titled “Extortion by Force or Threat of Injury of Serious Damage.” Stripling said in court Wednesday that the extortion guideline would have given Harmon a sentence of about 210 months — or more than 17 years.

In a written decision, Reasoner wrote that the money was given to Harmon to prevent him from doing his job as elected prosecutor rather than to prevent him from harming — physically, financially or otherwise — those upon whom he worked the extortion.

“The real ‘threat’ by Dan Harmon was the possibility (or the probability) of the victims being prosecuted for their criminal conduct, as each properly should have been,” Reasoner noted.
Stripling said in court that prosecutors are considering an appeal of the guidelines issue. For the U.S. attorney’s office to appeal, permission must be obtained from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Harmon was indicted in April 1997 on 11 charges. He opted for an immediate trial, effectively severing from his case all of his co-defendants, including Roger Walls, former head of the 7th Judicial District Drug Task Force. After nearly three weeks of testimony, Harmon was convicted of five charges and acquitted of six more.

The jury convicted Harmon of three extortion charges in violation of the Hobbs Act, which governs interstate commerce. The first dealt with the extortion of $50,000 from drug dealers Kay LaJean O’Brien and Freddie McCaslin in exchange for the dismissal of drug charges pending against McCaslin.

Another extortion charge dealt with the case of Ernest Varnardo, a Texas man who was arrested for drug possession while traveling through Harmon’s district. Walls and Harmon traveled to Varnardo’s home in Fort Worth, picked him up, brought him back to Arkansas and incarcerated him. They later released him after a cash payment. Harmon later demanded additional payments. Walls was convicted on this charge in a January 1998 trial.

The third extortion charge Harmon faced concerned the demand $10,000 from another drug defendant, Patrick Davis of Indiana. Davis’ wife, Tina, obtained the money from her mother and brought it to Arkansas, where Harmon told her she would have to provide either more money or have sex with him, Tina Davis testified during the trial. She refused and then paid Harmon the $10,000, and the couple signed a disclaimer on the money. Patrick Davis was then released.
Tina Davis’ mother and Ernest Varnardo will each be reimbursed out of Harmon’s restitution.

Harmon was also convicted of conspiring to possess marijuana with the intent to distribute, a charge that involved the sale of 117 pounds of marijuana found in the car of Arturo Valdez during a traffic stop. Valdez, who was also charged in the conspiracy, remains at large with arrest warrants pending.
The racketeering conviction relied on Harmon’s convictions on at least two other offenses, which made up the substantive acts of an illegal criminal enterprise.

After his trial, Harmon was allowed to go home on supervised release with electronic monitoring to await sentencing.
On Oct. 4, he was arrested again after traveling to his girlfriend’s Conway apartment. When FBI agents attempted to arrest Harmon, who was supposed to remain in Saline County while on release, he ran through the complex and jumped in a man-made pond.

The incident led to four new drug charges: possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, attempting to distribute methamphetamine and two counts of using a telephone in a drug transaction. He was convicted of all four counts after a one-day trial in April.

Prosecutors played tapes of Harmon’s conversations with Patricia Vaughn, his girlfriend, and argued that Harmon jumped in the water because methamphetamine would dissolve when wet. An expert testified that traces of the drug were found on a piece of foil in Harmon’s possession.

Using a telephone in a drug transaction carries maximum penalties of eight years in prison and a $60,000 fine. The other two charges carry maximum penalties of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The sentence could be enhanced up to 10 years for committing the crimes while on supervised release from his earlier convictions. No date has been set for the sentencing.

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

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Friday, June 18, 1999

ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

KIMBERLY GILLESPIE

A panel of three judges in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis is considering, without oral arguments, former Prosecuting Attorney Dan Harmon’s appeal of extortion, racketeering and drug convictions.

Its decision in the case will be arrived at on the basis of briefs submitted by attorneys from both sides, according to U.S. Attorney Paula Casey.

Four federal drug-related convictions against Harmon were affirmed by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court in January. The court was to hear arguments today in an appeal of earlier charges — two counts of racketeering, one count of conspiring to commit extortion and one count of conspiring to distribute marijuana — but set aside arguments about two weeks ago.

Harmon was convicted in June on those five charges and was sentenced to eight years in prison. A federal judge also ordered him to pay $16,000 in restitution to victims of two extortion schemes and a $25,000 fine.
Harmon’s attorney, Lea Ellen Fowler, contended in briefs submitted in January that there was not enough evidence to convict Harmon of racketeering or extortion.

She also argued that anyone who testified against Harmon in exchange for a plea bargain was in violation of the Arkansas Rules of Professional Conduct. The rules prohibit lawyers from offering or promising “anything of value for the testimony under oath.”

“The government’s case against Dan Harmon was presented through it’s conventional parade of convicted felons, drug offenders and career criminals,” she wrote in a brief filed in December 1998. The racketeering charge related to his using his office as 7th Judicial District prosecuting attorney as an illegal crime organization to obtain money and drugs.

The first extortion charge dealt with Harmon demanding $50,000 from drug dealers Kay LaJean O’Brien and Freddie McCaslin in exchange for the dismissal of drug charges against McCaslin.

The second charge related to the case of Ernest Varnado, a Texan arrested on drug possession charges as he traveled through the 7th Judicial District. Harmon and Roger Walls, former head of the district’s drug task force, picked up Varnado at his Fort Worth home and jailed him in Arkansas.

They received a cash payment later and demanded more payments.
Walls was convicted on this charge in January 1998.

The third extortion charge was based on Harmon’s demanding $10,000 from another drug defendant, Patrick Davis of Indiana. Davis’ wife, Tina, testified during the trial in May 1998 that she got the money from her mother and brought it to Arkansas where Harmon told her she would either have to give him more money or have sex with him.

The drug charge Harmon is appealing involved the sale of 117 pounds of marijuana discovered in a car during a traffic stop.
In January, the 8th Circuit Court upheld four other drug-related convictions against Harmon, stemming from his arrest October 1997 near his girlfriend’s Conway apartment while he was on supervised release with electronic monitoring and awaiting sentencing for the convictions now on appeal.

Harmon, who was supposed to stay in Saline County while released, jumped into a pond when FBI agents attempted to arrest him. He was convicted in April 1998 of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, attempting to distribute methamphetamine and two counts of using a telephone in a drug transaction.

As prosecuting attorney, Harmon was responsible for Saline, Grant and Hot Spring counties in 1979 and 1980 and again from 1991 until 1996 when he was forced to resign in a plea agreement resolving a set of state charges.

Copyright © 1999, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Thursday, July 23, 1998

ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

LINDA FRIEDLIEB

A federal judge described former Prosecuting Attorney Dan Harmon as “a thorn in our side for some years” before ordering Harmon to serve more than three years behind bars in addition to the eight-year term he is already serving.

U.S. District Judge Henry Woods took less than five minutes Wednesday to sentence Harmon to 37 months in prison, the maximum allowed under federal sentencing guidelines, for convictions related to an October episode in Conway. The latest prison sentence will be served after Harmon completes a 97-month term levied by another judge for unrelated charges.

Woods explained that he made the sentences consecutive because Harmon committed the offense while on bond in the earlier criminal case. When released from prison, Harmon will have to spend three years on supervised release, which includes drug testing and counseling.

In April, a jury convicted Harmon of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, attempting to distribute methamphetamine and two counts of using a telephone to commit a drug offense. The charges all stemmed from an Oct. 4 trip Harmon made to his girlfriend’s Conway apartment complex while he was supposed to be confined at his Saline County home.

Harmon’s girlfriend testified that he was bringing methamphetamine and pornography tapes to her apartment for a drug and sex party, and the prosecution played tapes of their phone conversations. FBI agents attempted to arrest Harmon when he arrived, but Harmon ran through the complex, jumped into a man-made lake and splashed around before surrendering to authorities.

Traces of methamphetamine were found on a piece of tinfoil in Harmon’s pocket, but no other methamphetamine was found on him. Methamphetamine dissolves in water.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, 30 of the 37 months resulted from the conviction, and the remaining months were a penalty enhancement because the crimes came during a supervised release pending sentencing for an earlier conviction.

Harmon was convicted in June 1997 of one count of racketeering, three counts of conspiring to commit extortion and one of conspiring to possess and distribute marijuana. The racketeering charge alleged Harmon used his 7th Judicial District prosecuting attorney’s office as an illegal crime organization to obtain money and drugs.

In May, U.S. District Judge Stephen M. Reasoner gave Harmon the 97-month sentence, observing that “There is just something extraordinary about someone who is a prosecuting attorney misusing the judicial system.”
Reasoner also ordered Harmon to pay $16,000 in restitution to victims of two extortion schemes and a $25,000 fine.

As prosecuting attorney, Harmon was responsible for Saline, Grant and Hot Spring counties. He held that position from 1979 until 1980 and again from 1991 through 1996, when he was forced to resign in a plea agreement resolving a set of state charges. He pleaded no contest to one misdemeanor and guilty to another.

Copyright © 1998, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Tuesday, January 19, 1999

ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

LINDA SATTER

Former prosecuting attorney Dan Harmon’s quest to have his four federal drug-related convictions thrown out is now in the hands of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which reviewed the case last week in St. Louis.

The convictions stem from Harmon’s Oct. 4, 1997, arrest by FBI agents outside his girlfriend’s apartment in Conway.

Prosecutors said the agents had been alerted by secretly recorded telephone conversations the previous day between Harmon and the girlfriend, Patricia Vaughn.

They said the conversations — recorded by agents with Vaughn’s knowledge — revealed that Harmon was bringing pornographic videos and drugs to share with the woman and a female friend of hers.

When Harmon, former prosecutor for the 7th Judicial District of Grant, Saline and Hot Spring counties, arrived as expected outside the Westlake Apartments, some of the seven agents approached him. Startled, Harmon threw down a videotape.

After tossing the tape, Harmon ran around a corner, shedding his shirt, and dove into a pond on the complex grounds. Agents testified they saw him up to his neck in the water, breathing heavily, and that the water appeared to be “churning,” before Harmon stood up, revealing that the water was waist deep.

Agents searched Harmon and found he had a hollow pen and some aluminum foil.

A state chemist testified that the foil contained traces of amphetamine and methamphetamine, and that methampehtamine dissolves in water. In addition, Vaughn testified that Harmon had taught her how to smoke the drug with foil and a straw.

The federal appellate court didn’t hear oral arguments last week on Harmon’s appeal, instead accepting written briefs on which the matter will be decided.

In his brief, written by defense attorney Lea Ellen Fowler, Harmon, 53, of Benton raised two issues that he contends justify a reversal of his convictions or a dismissal of the case.

First, he argued that the evidence at his April 13, 1998, trial was insufficient to sustain the convictions, partly because drugs weren’t mentioned directly in any of the recorded conversations.

The government, citing FBI testimony that drug dealers frequently talk “in code,” responded that the conversations nevertheless made clear that Harmon “intended to use methamphetamine with the two women and engage in sexual activity with them.” In conjunction with other evidence — such as Vaughn’s testimony explaining terms used in the conversations, the methamphetamine residue and Harmon’s act of driving to the apartment complex — the government argued that it clearly established guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Secondly, Harmon argued that the presiding judge, U.S. District Judge Henry Woods, mistakenly refused to grant Fowler’s request for a mistrial after the judge made an inadvertent, prejudicial remark in front of potential jurors.

Government prosecutors disagreed that the remark was prejudicial, instead calling it harmless and “insignificant in the context of the trial.”

Also, Assistant U.S. Attorney Pat Harris wrote that the remark was made before questioning of potential jurors began, and was later overshadowed by Fowler’s more damaging questions to witnesses that referred to Harmon’s prior trial and conditions of release.

According to the briefs, Woods made the remark while reading to potential jurors an Oct. 15, 1997, grand jury indictment outlining the charges.

After reading the four counts – two charging Harmon with using a telephone to commit a drug felony and one each charging him with possessing methamphetamine with intent to deliver and attempting to distribute methamphetamine — Woods said, “the above offenses were committed at a time the defendant had been released pending,” and then stopped.

Woods then said, “Well, I’m not going to read the enhancement portion of this. I am just going to read the counts.”

Fowler asked for a mistrial, and the judge denied the request, saying he hadn’t read the enhancement, a provision in an indictment stating that any sentence Harmon receives should be increased because the offenses occurred while he was awaiting sentencing on earlier convictions.

“The Court halted the reading before any potentially damaging remarks were made,” Harris wrote on the government’s behalf.

Harmon’s earlier convictions came in June 1997 on five of 11 federal felony charges, including racketeering by using his office to get drugs and money.

Harmon was convicted on all four drug-related counts in the 1998 trial, and Woods sentenced him in July to the maximum 37 months in prison, to be served consecutively to the eight years he received in the racketeering case before Reasoner.

Copyright © 1999, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc. All rights reserved.

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January 26,1999

ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

BY LINDA SATTER

A three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis has affirmed the April 1998 drug-related convictions of former Prosecuting Attorney Dan Harmon of Benton.

In a ruling released Monday, Circuit Judge Richard S. Arnold of Little Rock wrote that Harmon failed to show in his appeal that there was insufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict or that he was prejudiced by a judge’s inadvertent remark in front of jurors.

Joining Arnold in the decision were Circuit Judge Roger L. Wollman of Sioux Falls, S.D., and U.S. District Judge John R. Tunheim of Minneapolis.

Harmon, 53, was the prosecuting attorney for Arkansas’ 7th Judicial District, which then included Grant, Saline and Hot Spring counties, from 1979 until 1980, and again from 1991 through 1996, when he was forced to resign in a plea agreement involving a set of state misdemeanor charges.

The 37-month sentence he received for the four drug convictions that were affirmed Monday stemmed from an October 1997 incident at a Conway apartment complex.

He must serve the sentence after he completes a 97-month term imposed in June 1997 for his convictions on one count of racketeering, three counts of conspiring to commit extortion and one count of conspiring to possess and distribute marijuana — though he also is appealing those convictions.

At the time of his arrest outside the Conway apartment of his girlfriend, Harmon was supposed to be confined to his home pending sentencing for the earlier racketeering conviction, which alleged that he used his prosecutor’s office as a crime organization to obtain money and drugs. Consequently, seven of the 37 months he must serve for his drug convictions were a penalty enhancement for violating terms of his supervised release in the other case.

In his appeal, discussed last week when the appellate panel met in St. Louis, Harmon contended that his convictions were largely based on secretly recorded telephone conversations in which federal prosecutors contended he was arranging to bring drugs to the apartment complex, when in fact no drugs were ever mentioned by name during the conversations.

To that, Arnold wrote, “in the context of the previous relations between the woman and the defendant, … it was entirely reasonable for the jury to infer that the conversations were about methamphetamine. The girlfriend herself so testified.”

Arnold also wrote that “it was reasonable for the jury to infer from [other] evidence that the defendant arrived at the apartment with methamphetamine, intending to give it to his girlfriend and the other woman, and that he jumped in the pool to destroy the evidence when he saw the officers.”

Harmon’s convictions were on two counts of using a telephone to commit a felony, and one count each of possession of methamphetamine with the intent to distribute, and attempting to distribute methamphetamine.

Harmon had also complained in his appeal that when U.S. District Judge Henry Woods read the indictment outlining the charges before jury selection, he inadvertently began reading the penalty enhancement portion of the document, indicating that Harmon had a prior conviction.

But the appellate court sided with the U.S. attorney’s office in noting that “the Court did well to stop when it did. Was it error to refuse a mistrial? We think not. … we defer to the judgment of the able District Judge that the incident was not serious enough to justify aborting the trial.”

Copyright © 1999, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc. All rights reserved.

Reproduced with permission

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