Tuesday, June 3, 1997
Harmon judge not sold on witness-tampering
Facing federal drug charges in 1994, Shelton Corley began
cooperating with a federal investigation, including giving
information about then-Prosecuting Attorney Dan Harmon to a
federal grand jury.
Then he stopped.
Now Harmon is charged with persuading Corley -- who also
allegedly supplied Harmon with drugs -- to end his cooperation.
Today, Chief U.S. District Judge Stephen M. Reasoner will decide
whether to allow Assistant U.S. Attorney Pat Harris to testify
about the Corley situation or dismiss the charge altogether.
Witness-tampering is one of 11 federal felony charges Harmon
faces. The others involve drugs, extortion and operating the 7th
Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney's office as a corrupt
organization in violation of the federal Racketeering Influenced
Corrupt Organizations Act.
The prosecution is expected to complete its case today, one
week into the trial.
Monday, Reasoner expressed doubts regarding the
witness-tampering charge. He had listened to Harris give a
summary of his testimony under oath but outside the jury's
presence and reviewed transcripts of testimony by Harmon's former
wife, Holly DuVall, last week on the relationship between Corley
"If you don't come up with something by 9:15 [today] ...
without testimony or proof that Mr. Harmon knew that Mr. Corley
was cooperating or testifying before the grand jury, I'm not
going to let Mr. Harris testify,'' Reasoner told Assistant U.S.
Attorney Dan Stripling, one of two prosecutors on the case.
Corley was arrested in the summer of 1994 for possessing
about 106 marijuana plants. A federal grand jury later indicted
Corley after a search of his house yielded more drugs and
Corley agreed to plead guilty to possession with the intent
to distribute marijuana and cooperate with federal investigators
in exchange for dismissal of other charges and a recommendation
for a reduced sentence.
Corley made statements to investigators and, according to
Harmon's indictment, gave testimony before a federal grand jury
in February 1995 that implicated Harmon.
Then Corley backed out of the plea agreement, and Lea Ellen
Fowler, Harmon's attorney, said in court that Corley recanted his
testimony in a later grand jury appearance.
Prosecutors contend Harmon knew about Corley's cooperation
and arranged for him to take a 10-year state prison term in order
to keep federal investigators away. State sentences allow early
release, and the prosecution contends Harmon promised Corley
minimal time behind bars and admittance to a program that would
keep him out of the general prison population.
"Dan Harmon told me he was -- he heard they was going to give
me five years for them little old plants -- and he was going to
help me out,'' Corley testified in April 1996 before the grand
jury, according to a transcript of the proceedings.
"I gave Dan Harmon $15,000. They said that my girlfriend had
sold an eight-ball of methamphetamine to somebody and they had it
on tape,'' Corley continued. "And I gave $15,000 for my
girlfriend. And then they -- he -- got me to plead guilty to it
and give me 10, told me he was going to give me 10 years, but I
never was going to go to the penitentiary. My number would never
Neither Corley nor Paul Johnson, Corley's former attorney,
are on Stripling's witness list. Stripling declined to comment on
that Monday, but Reasoner suggested in court that Johnson's
testimony would be prevented by attorney-client privilege.
But Fowler contends there is no proof her client knew about
Corley's cooperation when Harmon arranged for Corley to plead
guilty to a 10-year sentence in state court.
"We're getting into more than inference here. We're getting
into speculation, rumor,'' she said. "There's no witness who's
going to come into here and say Mr. Harmon was aware.''
Monday, as the attorneys argued about the witness-tampering
charge, other witnesses testified against Harmon. One was Kay
LaJean O'Brien, who told of paying large "fines'' through defense
attorney Bill Murphy to avoid going to court on drug charges
Copyright 1997, Little Rock Newspapers, Inc. All rights reserved.