FRIDAY, JUNE 28, 1991
Arkansas Gazette

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