The Media's Role in State Government Cover-UpsBy Jean Duffey
One thing that makes me think the media's role in this
conspiracy may be more than mere laziness or negligence is
their reluctance to report information that is contrary to the
government's "official" position, no matter how verifiable the
contrary information may be. Case in point: The Arkansas media
was supportive of the homicide investigation of Kevin Ives and
Don Henry for years and reported every newly discovered detail,
no matter how insignificant. There were many hundreds of
newspaper articles written in the early years. This was when
the "official" position of the state's special prosecutor was
that the boys had been murdered and their bodies placed in
front of an on-coming train to cover the crime. Eight years
after the murders, in spite of overwhelming evidence implicating
public officials in the murders and a perpetuated cover-up,
there have been no articles - zero, absolutely none.
In November, 1995, the FBI shut down its investigation when evidence linked
the crimes to the Mena drug-smuggling operation. FBI Special Agent
Bill Temple told the Ives' they "should consider the
fact that no crime was committed." (See Linda Ives' Time-Line under the
Fed up with the cover-up, I revealed on a Little Rock TV talk show that three witnesses place Prosecutor Dan Harmon on the railroad tracks with Kevin and Don the night they were murdered (transcription of that talk show coming soon). This information came from state police reports of two eye-witnesses, and an FBI witness who passed a polygraph test. The radio host was so excited about the news, he immediately sent out a news release to the Arkansas media reporting what I said. However, the story was ignored by every news source except the small daily paper in my hometown of Malvern.
Think about this a minute. I am a former deputy prosecutor and director of a drug task force disclosing documents of three eye-witnesses who place a state prosecuting attorney at the scene of two brutal murders, yet I am ignored by Arkansas's news media. They, of course, do not want to be in conflict with the government's "official" position, which includes U.S. Attorney Chuck Banks clearing Dan Harmon in June, 1991, of all allegations of wrong-doing. The media also ignored my report that the FBI recommended Banks be charged with obstruction of justice for shutting down that federal investigation of Harmon - the FBI won't confirm that, but they won't deny it either, which is a red flag also being ignored.
When the state's only daily newspaper, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, refused to print a letter to the editor my brother, Mark Keesee, wrote asking them to cover this story of great public interest and concern, Linda Ives and I decided to not let this go by unchallenged. We went to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette office and asked to speak with the state news editor, Roger Hedges. It was July 2, 1996, at about 10:30 a m. The previous week, my brother, Mark Keesee, sent Hedges a packet of information to make certain he was apprised of the issues which concerned us. (The Benton Courier interview of I.C. Smith, the Courier article of Linda's response, my letter to Smith, Mark's letter to the Courier editor, the Courier article about missing money from Harmon's task force evidence locker, a Democrat-Gazette article on the missing money, the Malvern Daily Record article reporting Harmon on the tracks with Kevin and Don the night they were murdered, and a copy of the video Obstruction of Justice. The articles about the missing money and Mark's letter to the Courier editor were intended to show media bias. The rest was to show there is a very good story the Democrat-Gazette is missing.)
When Linda and I arrived at the paper office, we were directed to Hedges. As soon as we introduced ourselves to him, he immediately became defensive. He said he had to get ready to go to a meeting, so we asked if we could make an appointment to talk with him at his convenience. Hedges said "What about?"
I told him we wanted to know why his paper was treating the new information we had on Dan Harmon like it was a "non-story." I specifically asked why they hadn't pursued a story on the eye-witnesses who place Harmon on the tracks with Kevin and Don the night they were murdered. Hedges asked who the witnesses are, so I began telling him that a witness came forward in 1993 who was placed in protective custody by the FBI. This witness's information was credible enough for the FBI to open its own investigation of the "train deaths." Then I began telling him about Sharline Wilson, who is a confessed ex-drug dealer and cohort of Harmon. Sharline claims to have actually ridden with Harmon to the tracks that night.
Hedges interrupted me and said in an inappropriately condescending tone, "Well, look at the kind of people you have accusing a prosecuting attorney". He placed great emphasis on "prosecuting attorney."
Let's examine that statement - it has three very revealing points. First point: Hedges either ignored me when I told him about the FBI witness who prompted a new investigation, or Hedges took exception to the FBl's assessment of the witness's worth by placing the witness in the category of "the kind of people" who have no business accusing a public official of a crime. It couldn't be the latter, since Hedges knows nothing about this witness, including the fact the witness passed an FBI polygraph test. Hedges was,therefore, ignoring the very existence of this particular witnes since the information does not fit his agenda - a well-established practice of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
Second point: Hedges clearly asserted his opinion that Sharline Wilson is an unfit witness by placing her in the category of "the kind of people" who have no business accusing the likes of Dan Harmon. But wait a minute. Just who are the best witnesses against drug dealers? Could it perhaps be those who know about drug dealing? And who knows about drug dealing better than drug dealers? Not only does Sharline know about Harmon from first hand experience with him, she paid a heavy price for testifying against him. After Harmon was cleared by U.S. Attorney Chuck Banks (in spite of the federal grand jury unanimously wanting to indict him after hearing testimony from Sharline and many other witnesses), Harmon had Sharline arrested by his drug task force. Harmon then teamed up with his buddy, Circuit Judge John Cole, and railroaded a jury into convicting her. As an ex-prosecuting attorney and head of a drug task force, it is my opinion that Sharline's history with Harmon, coupled with Harmon's retaliation against her, makes her a compelling witness. I feel certain prosecutors will not be lining up to get advice from Hedges about how to get drug dealers convicted.
Third point: Hedges was apparently offended by the witnesses who were "accusing a prosecuting attorney." Wait another minute. Never mind the prosecuting attorney we're talking about is Dan Harmon, who was the subject of more than a hundred newspaper articles in the last year chronicling his bizarre, illegal, and violent behavior. Never mind that Harmon was so discredited the voters of Saline County dealt him an embarrassing and overwhelming defeat in the 1996 primary elections. Never mind that Harmon later resigned from office as part of a plea agreement on five felony charges. Hedges considers Dan Harmon to be worthy of a higher class of witnesses than the average criminal by virtue of his position as a prosecuting attorney. But mainstream media is notorious for holding public officials to a lower sandard rather than a highter standard, even criminals according to Hedges.
Hedges had cut me off before I told him about a third witness - it was quite evident that he had an attitude problem about Linda and me. We offered again to come back another time, hoping he wouldn't be so irritated with us if we had an appointment, but he asked why we wanted to meet again with him. Linda said we wanted to know why the paper has never run a story on the six witnesses who have turned up dead in Kevin and Don's case.
Hedges looked at me and said, "Your brother, (emphasizing "brother" in a hateful tone) told me there were six jurors that turned up dead.
Linda said, "No, they were witnesses."
Hedges said, "I was told they were jurors."
This was the only time during our visit Linda or I were anything other than very cordial, but Linda was obviously irritated with Hedges. It was an insult for him to think we would suggest that grand jurors were being murdered, and it was ridiculous for him to think Mark would be mistaken about such a thing. Hedges was calling us liars, and we take serious offense to that.
Linda responded sternly, "You obviously misunderstood. I can assure you Mark did not say jurors were turning up dead. He would never have said something like that."
Hedges responded by saying something like, "Anyway, there is no evidence that the deaths were related to the case," and he didn't think the coincidence made much of a story.
Linda said, "The Democrat ran a story when three of the witnesses turned up dead. It seems to me that six dead witnesses is twice the story."
Hedges acted ticked but didn't have a response, so Linda continued. She reminded Hedges how angry the Democrat-Gazette was when the Benton Courier had written an article the previous month allowing Harmon to explain why he assaulted a Democrat-Gazette reporter. The Courier printed very ugly things Harmon had to say about the reporter, but didn't call the reporter to respond or tell his side. Linda said the Democrat did the same thing to me back in 1990, time and time and time again. They printed whatever lie Harmon wanted to mouth about me, but rarely gave me the opportunity to respond.
Hedges tried to cop out by saying that was before his time at the paper. "Besides," he said, "that was Doug Thompson who wrote those stories, and Thompson is now in the business section and doesn't have anything to do with the Benton bureau anymore."
Linda quickly reminded Hedges that when Harmon was on his "hunger strike" in the hospital, a few weeks earlier, Harmon refused to talk to any reporter but Thompson, so, of course, the Democrat-Gazette complied with Harmon's wish.
Hedges had no choice but to admit it and said, "Well, yes,
Yes, that is right. Anytime Harmon wanted to mouth off to the press, they rushed the reporter of his choice to him. With this, Hedges looked at the clock and said in an accusatory tone, "Now I'm late for my meeting," as if it was our fault. I asked him if we could arrange to meet with him some other time, and he said he would be in touch. We've never heard from him.
For details of the media's role in covering up the train deaths, see "The Media; Friend or Foe?", by Linda Ives.