Saturday, April 12, 1997
Ex-prosecutor faces 11 charges
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.