Arkansas Justice The Wall Street Journal
June 13, 1997Once again a jury of ordinary Arkansans has weighed the evidence against a powerful state official and returned with guilty verdicts. While pundits in Washington and elsewhere yawn over anything connected to the swamp of corruption known as Whitewater, the people of Arkansas are busy draining the muck.
On Wednesday, the jury in Chief U.S. District Judge Stephen Reasoner's Little Rock courtroom convicted former county prosecuting attorney Dan Harmon of using his office as a criminal enterprise to extort narcotics and cash, handing in guilty verdicts on five counts of racketeering, extortion and drug distribution. Witnesses testified about drug deals and payoffs to a man perceived to have wide influence in the state. "I was afraid of Dan Harmon," one witness testified. "I thought Mr. Harmon controlled most of the counties of the state."
The wife of a drug dealer testified she brought Mr. Harmon $10,000 in his office for the release of her husband, but Mr. Harmon asked for more money and a night of sex. His former wife, Holly DuVall, testified she took cocaine and shot methamphetamine with him. U.S. Attorney Paula Casey, who brought the case against Mr. Harmon together with a reinvigorated Little Rock FBI office under Special Agent I.C. Smith, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that she hoped the case would send a "signal" that federal authorities in Arkansas "take the administration of justice very seriously."
Mr. Harmon was twice elected on the Democratic ticket as prosecuting attorney for Arkansas's Seventh Judicial District, serving from 1990 until his resignation in July 1996. Earlier, he had insinuated himself as a volunteer investigator and later a special prosecutor in the controversial "train deaths" case of teenagers Kevin Ives and Don Henry, unsolved since 1987. And while Mr. Harmon is not directly connected to President Clinton, his conviction is proof that elements of Arkansas law enforcement were corrupted by drugs during Mr. Clinton's tenure as governor.
A number of controversies attached themselves to Mr. Harmon, including the train deaths case reported on these pages by our Micah Morrison on April 15 this year and April 18, 1996. The matters deserve to be reconsidered within the context that Dan Harmon is now a felon convicted of running a drug racket.
When the Ives and Henry boys were found dead on railroad tracks southwest of Little Rock in August 1987, Governor Clinton's medical examiner, Fahmy Malak, quickly ruled the deaths "accidental," saying the teenagers had fallen asleep next to each other on the tracks after smoking too much marijuana. After a public outcry, a second autopsy concluded the boys had been murdered, and Mr. Clinton's solicitude for Dr. Malak became a subject of controversy. In time Mr. Harmon involved himself in the case, and in 1989 he came under scrutiny in a federal probe of drug distribution, money laundering and political payoffs. In June 1991, then-U.S. Attorney Chuck Banks cleared Mr. Harmon, saying there was "no evidence of drug-related misconduct by any public official."
The history of corruption probes in Arkansas isn't promising. A stonewall of events at remote Mena airport went on for more than a decade. Recently, Rep. Jim Leach forced a concession from the Central Intelligence Agency that it had been active at the airfield, though it denies any association with illegal activities. This only adds to the mystery of what was going on at that remote airfield.
Kevin Ives's mother, Linda Ives, has waged a decade-long battle for the truth in the train deaths and believes Mr. Harmon, Mena and senior Arkansas officials played some role in events connected to her son's murder. In a statement issued on her web site [www.idmedia.com, as of February 2004 disappeared], Mrs. Ives called the Harmon conviction a "bittersweet" victory and vowed to press on with a civil lawsuit as the only way to get the train deaths in court.
For years, Mrs. Ives has been the only one complaining about Mr. Harmon. With Mr. Harmon convicted by a jury and soon to be incarcerated, new witnesses might come forward. Or Mr. Harmon's associates several of whom are slated to go on trial in January might decide to talk in exchange for leniency, as might Mr. Harmon himself.
After years of struggle, there's a lot of bad blood between the Ives camp, the Arkansas media and the controlling legal authorities. But the fact remains that Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Stripling working with FBI agents under the direction of I.C. Smith put together a case and put Dan Harmon in jail. The evidence suggests that if they can get a case into court, the courage of Arkansas judges and juries will give them a fair shot at justice.
Copyright © 1997 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.
The CIA The "War on Drugs" Serendipity Home Page