FEDERAL PROBE OF SALINE COUNTY CORRUPTION
Federal Memos Introduction
The term federal memos and federal memorandums refer to two inner-office memorandums written by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bob Govar to his boss, U.S. Attorney Chuck Banks. Govar wrote the first memo in February of 1990 as an informal “status report pertaining to the Saline County Investigation.” Govar had been assigned about nine months earlier to look into allegations of public official corruption and drug trafficking in Saline County. Although there was no funding for the investigation, and the investigators were essentially volunteers, Govar had generated a significant amount of information by the time he wrote the first memo.
The second memo was written a month and a half later, on March 29, 1990, and reflects the additional information developed in that short time.rug task force had became operational in April of 1990 and immediately began linking drug trafficking to public officials in the district, which included Saline County. Although every attempt was made to subvert Jean, she and her undercover officers developed a great deal of additional information for Govar’s investigation.
By the end of 1990, their combined efforts had amassed enough evidence to indict several key public officials on drug charges, including Dan Harmon and Richard Garrett. Although the grand jury that was hearing the evidence was unanimously ready to indict Harmon, Garrett, and others, that never happened. Jean Duffey was fired, her task force was shut down, Bob Govar was ousted and demoted, and the grand jury was sent home without being allowed to indict any public official. Six months later, U.S. Attorney Chuck Banks held a news conference and announced “there would not be any pressing of indictment against Mr. Harmon or any other public officials in Saline County”. . . Asked about allegations of misconduct, corruption or drug abuse by Harmon or other Saline County public officials, Banks said, “Quite frankly, there is none. We found no evidence of any drug-related misconduct by public officials in Saline County.'” Arkansas Gazette, June 28, 1991.
“. . . no evidence of any drug-related misconduct by public officials in Saline County,” Mr. Banks said. Based on the two federal memos alone, that is an absurd statement, but when one considers how much more evidence Bob Govar must have accumulated by the end of 1990, and the additional evidence Jean Duffey’s task force provided to Govar, Chuck Banks’ statement is contemptibly stupid. But then, what difference does it make how absurd or asinine it was for Banks to clear Saline County’s drug traffickers? There are no repercussions for joining the ranks of dirty public officials. Banks was, in fact, rewarded with a federal judgeship nomination, which fortunately for him never materialized before all Bush nominations were withdrawn after Clinton won the presidency in 1992.
Although it was not clear, at the time, why Banks, a Republican-appointed U.S. Attorney, was protecting a bunch of Democrats involved in local drug trafficking, it became clear four years later. In March of 1994, a Little Rock FBI agent persuaded Jean Duffey to get involved in a newly-opened FBI investigation of the “train deaths” by telling her they had recommended to the Justice Department Chuck Banks be charged with obstructing justice for shutting down the 1990 federal grand jury investigation of Saline County. Of course, that never happened, and, in fact, the FBI investigation was shut down cold in November of 1995. That entire story is told on the FBI page of this web site.
Although the closing of the FBI investigation was disappointing to Jean and especially devastating to Linda Ives, who had worked closely enough with the investigators to know the FBI knows who murdered her son and why. The “why” is the reason these high-ranking public officials not only receive protection for their involvement, but are promoted for their efforts. It is also the reason Republicans and Democrats are in bed with each other. The “why” is the source of the drugs – the Mena drug smuggling enterprise which was operating under the auspices of the CIA and was protected by state and federal authorities. Every investigator who has tried to expose the crimes of Mena has been professionally destroyed, and certainly Jean Duffey and Bob Govar were no match for their power. The details of the Mena drug smuggling operation is told in the CIA subsection of this site.
© ID Files 1996
Govar's Federal Memos
U.S. Attorney's Office Out of Control
Friday, June 28, 1991
Harmon Cleared Of Allegations Of Drug Crimes
BY CHRIS DAY
Gazette Benton Bureau
BENTON – Prosecutor Dan Harmon said Thursday it felt great to be out from under a cloud of suspicion cast by a federal investigation into allegations he was either a recreational drug user, a drug dealer or the drug kingpin of Saline County.
U.S. Attorney Chuck Banks announced earlier in the day that Harmon, his family and all Saline County public officials had been cleared of allegations of drug-related public misconduct and other forms of wrongdoing.
Banks’ declaration ended a more than 17-month federal investigation into public corruption in Saline County. Harmon, 46, was identified as a target of the inquiry in February and March memos from Assistant U.S. Attorney Bob Govar to Banks. Those memos were leaked to the press early this year.
“It’s not been very pleasant at all,” Harmon said Thursday. “I regret that it took so long to do and that federal investigators listened to a crazy person like Jean Duffey.”
Duffey, former coordinator of the 7th Judicial District Drug Task Force, provided potentially damaging information to federal investigators about Harmon’s alleged drug connections. Saline County Sheriff Larry Davis initiated the federal investigation into Saline County corruption.
When asked if the allegations passed on to federal investigators were politically motivated, Harmon said, “Only a fool wouldn’t see some politics in it.”
Harmon, of Benton, is prosecuting attorney for the 7th Judicial District, which encompasses Saline, Grant and Hot Spring counties.
Banks said Thursday all allegations against Harmon and his chief deputy, Richard Garrett, were based on rumors and innuendo and didn’t have merit. He also said he would not prosecute Harmon, Harmon’s former wife or the prosecutor’s daughter, who were mentioned in a court hearing earlier in connection with a drug suspect, Marvin David Stegall, 31, of Hot Springs.
During a hearing in March, Govar told U.S. Magistrate Jerry Caveneau that if Stegall went to trial, evidence would show that he had influence over Harmon. He said witnesses would testify that Harmon, his former wife, Teresa, and Harmon’s daughter, Tami, all had ties to Stegall.
Stegall is charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine in Pulaski, Saline and Garland counties. Harmon, who had repeatedly denied the allegations against him, sat serenely at a desk in his office Thursday, thumbing through a newspaper, answering questions and fielding calls from other news media representatives.
“The investigation has been distracting for me and the people who work for me. It has been very trying. Now, maybe we can get back to doing our work,” Harmon said.
Garrett told the Associated Press: “I think it’s unfair it took them that long to make any kind of announcement. What’s worse is they released all this inner-office memorandum. They did nothing but tarnish my reputation and character forever.
Harmon’s serenity didn’t necessarily signal an end of hostilities between him and Davis.
Davis was out of town Thursday and unavailable for comment. He and Harmon have been feuding over investigations, lost or misplaced evidence, and other issues since February.
Lt. Jerry Easom the sheriff’s top aide, told the AP he served on a federal task force headed by Banks to investigate public corruption and drug use. Harmon was a subject of the inquiry, he said.
“We have not found any substantial evidence that those allegations were true, therefore there will be no charges,” Easom said.
Harmon told the Gazette he understood that Saline County sheriff’s investigators who provided information to federal agents were just doing their jobs.
Duffey, who has been in hiding for nearly six months after Cole issued a warrant for her arrest for failing to honor a court subpoena, couldn’t be reached for comment by the Gazette, but her brother David Keesee of Malvern, said he didn’t expect her to leave her hiding place.
Little Rock television station KARK-Channel 4 reported that Duffey said Thursday evening she would continue pushing authorities to prosecute Harmon.
-George Wells of the Gazette Staff and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
Reproduced with permission
October 21, 1996
ID Files Update
A Study in Conspiracy
By Jean Duffey
First, there were years of confusion:
Those of us who profess a connection between the “train deaths” and our federal government realize the difficulty average folks have believing there could be such a conspiracy between local and federal officials. It’s nearly impossible to imagine such a notion, which makes it easy for mainstream media to scoff at the mere suggestion.
The public’s skepticism is understandable. When U.S. Attorney Chuck Banks held a press conference in June of 1991, to clear Dan Harmon and all other Saline County public officials “of drug-related public misconduct and other forms of wrongdoing,” (Arkansas Gazette, June 28, 1991) I knew Banks was covering up serious crimes, but I didn’t suspect a conspiracy.
There were immediate rumors of blackmail based on a visit Harmon made to Banks with a video tape tucked under his arm. A few years prior to this visit, Harmon headed a county grand jury investigation involving a Saline County gambling house protected by former Sheriff James Steed. Prostitutes were paid to lure public officials into sexuals encounters which were clandestinely captured on film, and if such a film of Banks existed, Harmon would certainly have access to it. Putting two and two together, a plausible explanation of Banks’ blatant obstruction of justice was spawned.
I was not and still am not convinced, however, a two-year federal investigation was shut down because Banks was being blackmailed. Harmon’s visit with Banks was indeed before Banks publicly proclaimed all Saline County free of corruption, but it was after Banks had already begun to dismantle the grand jury investigation. The wheels were already in motion to thwart any public official indictments. It seemed to me an attempt to blackmail Banks would have to be lower-keyed, and the facts are supportive of my supposition.
Prior to his walking into Banks’ office with the alleged video tape, Harmon was facing seven felony counts of income tax evasion. After leaving Banks’ office without the alleged video tape, he was facing three misdemeanor counts of failure to file tax returns. Blackmailing Banks to reduce charges of tax improprieties is believable, but blackmailing a U.S. Attorney to ignore two years of accumulated evidence against a number of public officials is simply not believable.
Shutting down a federal grand jury which wanted to indict several public officials was a very large-scale obstruction of justice, and Banks could not have done that on his own. Banks sent the 1990 jurors home at the end of their term with a warning they would be indicted if they spoke about what went on during their service. This was according to three grand jurors who were so outraged at Banks they wanted me to know they were unanimously ready to indict Dan Harmon and several other public officials. Something more than a blackmail tape was involved.
Still, I didn’t think in terms of a conspiracy, even though Banks, a republican- appointed U.S. Attorney, was protecting a bunch of democrats holding county offices. To justify his actions, Banks used a media smear campaign Harmon had contrived against me, which had completely discredited me professionally by the end of 1990. Although Banks knew the information my drug task force had provided the grand jury was credible, he used my destroyed reputation as the reason he concluded the allegations against Saline County officials “were based on rumors and innuendo.” (Arkansas Gazette, June 28, 1991) The truth is, even if all the evidence offered by my drug task force was discounted, Assistant U.S. Attorney Bob Govar had independently accumulated enough evidence during his two-year investigation of Saline County corruption to support indictments. In spite of the amassed evidence, Banks announced , “we found no evidence of any drug-related misconduct by public officials in Saline County.” (Benton Courier, June 27, 1991)
I was dumbstruck by the announcement and bewildered when I remembered Chris Day, the Saline County Arkansas Gazette reporter, had given me prior warning. A source Chris would not name told him Banks was going to clear Harmon and all other Saline County officials in exchange for a federal judgeship nomination. I immediately called Bob Govar with Chris’s prediction. Bob said, “That’s nonsense. Banks has been wanting a nomination for years, but it’s just not going to happen.” Bob was wrong. Several months were allowed to pass after Banks publicly cleansed Saline County, then Banks received his federal judgeship nomination from President George Bush.* That’s right – from George Bush. Some kind of conspiracy plot was the only explanation, but it was just too ridiculous to consider, so I didn’t.
Professionally destroyed, dodging two bogus felony warrants, and fearing for my safety, my husband and I retreated from the controversy and lived quietly as school teachers in Pasadena, Texas. Then, in March of 1994, the FBI persuaded me to get involved again. An eye witness had come forward and passed an FBI polygraph test placing Dan Harmon on the tracks with Kevin Ives and Don Henry the night they were murdered back in 1987. This prompted the FBI to open it’s own investigation of the “train deaths” and to ask for my assistance. It was during that eighteen-month-long FBI investigation the conspiracy exposed itself.
Linda Ives and I began communicating for the first time. We shared information with each other and with the FBI. I also met Saline County Sheriff Investigator John Brown, who told me about a pilot he had interviewed who claimed to have flown a drug drop to the location where Kevin and Don were murdered. Additionally, Arkansas had become the focus of national interest by now, and many investigative reporters were anxious to uncover information about Clinton. The “train deaths” case certainly had connections to Clinton via Fahmy Malak, which initially piqued the interests of right-wingers. Then, as Linda and I shared information with anyone and everyone who would listen, the mystery unraveled, and the FBI verified much of what we now know.
Now, there was understanding:
Local law enforcement officers protected a major drug-drop site in Saline County that was part of the Mena Airport drug smuggling operation set up in the early 1980’s by the notorious drug smuggler, Barry Seal. By the mid-1980’s, CIA operatives were using Mena to help finance their covert support of the Nicaraguan Contras. (See the Mena page.) In spite of overwhelming evidence, Mena’s connection to a CIA operation or to a government-protected drug operation has been discounted or ignored by mainstream media. Even though Seal smuggled drugs in a cargo plane given to him by the CIA, and even though that plane was shot down over Nicaragua with a load of weapons, the media reports and supports the official CIA position of denial.
I realize now, my drug task force was dismantled because we were getting too close to solving the “train deaths.” We learned Kevin and Don were murdered because they witnessed a drug and/or money drop from an airplane. My task force knew public officials were actively involved in covering up the murders, but we were shut down before we connected the local activity to Mena. We were not allowed to progress our investigation any further. Harmon, a popular public figure at that time, lead a brutal campaign to discredit me; dirty public officials supported Harmon’s efforts; the media thrived for months on writing unsubstantiated allegations against me and my task force; and Chuck Banks used me as a scapegoat to justify shutting down the 1990 federal grand jury inquiry.
When I realized the catalyst for the thwarting of every investigation of the “train deaths” had been the Mena connection, I warned Phyllis Cournan, the agent in charge of the FBI investigation. I told her Kevin and Don’s killers would be indicted only if the investigation stayed away from Mena, but I was fooling myself to think that was possible. The Mena connection must eventually be made. By then, there had been six “train deaths” investigations that had gone nowhere, and in November of 1995, the FBI investigation became number seven. (See the FBI page.) The Mena connection again caused the rug to be yanked out from under an investigation which, in turn, is the logic behind a conspiracy premise.
A problem with swallowing any conspiracy theory is the murky connections. However, in this case, the evidence of a conspiracy between Mena CIA operatives and Saline County public official thugs brings the big picture into focus. It is important to understand all those involved did not sit around a conference table and discuss how to pull off a conspiracy. To the contrary, I have spoken to several ex-CIA operatives and a CIA contract pilot who occasionally flew the Saline County drop. They all explain that any one person in an operation knows only what is necessary for a specific assignment. This fits with statements made by some of the witnesses claiming to have picked up drugs from the tracks. They were told the drugs were coming up from Louisiana by train, which I believe was deliberate misinformation. Yet, it is the role of Dan Harmon in this story that is most convincing there was and is a multi-level, bi-partisan conspiracy.
My drug task force provided substantial evidence of Harmon’s involvement in illegal drug activity to the 1990 federal grand jury. Harmon countered with a smear campaign discrediting me and my task force. I was the good guy, and Harmon was the bad guy; but I was abandoned, and Harmon was supported. At the time, I didn’t know the cause of Harmon’s muscle, but the effect was clear – Banks protected Harmon from a multi-count indictment by a federal grand jury. From a larger perspective – Democratic District Prosecutor Dan Harmon was cleared by Republican U.S. Attorney Chuck Banks who was rewarded with a federal judgeship nomination by Republican President George Bush who is a former CIA Director.
Sounds pretty wild, but I challenge anyone to come up with any other explanation that makes half good sense for the support and protection Dan Harmon has received from low- to high-ranking public officials in spite of his years of various and numerous well-publicized criminal activity.
Now, there is frustration mixed with hope:
Like the adage, Linda and I are all dressed up with no place to go. We have enough evidence to have Dan Harmon and several other public officials indicted for covering up the murders of Kevin and Don, but we have no place to take it. We have enough evidence to connect the murders to CIA-Mena drug smuggling, but mainstream media won’t listen. We have evidence to warrant a Congressional investigation of a conspiracy among Republicans and Democrats to cover-up the crimes of Mena, but a Republican Congress won’t investigate a Republican scandal.
We have no official authority, we have no political clout, and we have no media influence, and we have no money, but we appear to be having an effect. Dan Harmon went down in flames, and three political candidates from his district, who publicly supported him through the years faced surprising defeats on November 5.
The odds are overwhelmingly against us, but we have hope and we have the Internet. Maybe we have all we need.
*Note: Chuck Banks was scheduled for a confirmation hearing in late November of 1992, but all Bush nominations were withdrawn immediately after Clinton won the election. Banks never received his judgeship. Sometimes there is justice. Banks, however, managed this year to get himself appointed head of the Pulaski County Republican Party. Either memories are short, or the Republicans of Pulaski County don’t care if their leader is dirty.