Thursday, April 17, 1997

Harmon bucks conditions
for release but goes free

BY LINDA FRIEDLIEB
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

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

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