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VIDEO: Harmon acquitted on both counts

By Gavin Lesnick

This article was originally published June 24, 2010 at 5:46 p.m. Updated June 24, 2010 at 7:19 p.m.

former-prosecutor-dan-harmon-waits-thursday-for-his-trial-on-drug-charges-to-begin-at-the-grant-county-courthouse-in-sheridan

Former prosecutor Dan Harmon waits Thursday for his trial on drug charges to begin at the Grant County Courthouse in Sheridan.

Harmon acquitted of drug charges

Ex-prosecutor Dan Harmon was acquitted of two counts of delivering a controlled substance.

UPDATE 6:15 p.m.

Ex-prosecutor Dan Harmon was acquitted of drug charges after a one-day trial in Grant County.

The jury reached a decision after less than half an hour of deliberating on two counts of delivering a controlled substance.

Harmon, who had been accused of trading pain pills for money and a look at women's breasts in a pair of incidents last December, had only brief comments after the judge announced the decision.

"Thank you and god bless you," he answered repeated queries from reporters in the courtroom. "That's all I have to say."

He then embraced defense attorney Mark Hampton, who later said the decision reflected evidence that was "horribly weak."

"I think this was the right decision," Hampton said. "I just appreciate the fact that we got a jury that was open-minded and actually hold the state to its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt."

Special Prosecutor H.G. Foster, meanwhile, called the credibility of police informant Mary Daugherty - who acknowledged struggling with an addiction to painkillers herself - one of the major hurdles in the case.

"In narcotics enforcement, any time your case turns solely on the testimony of a confidential informant, you're going to have issues," Foster said. "Confidential informants come with baggage and you have to deal with that in court."

Hampton, too, singled out Daugherty's testimony as the big reason why the jury voted to acquit.

"Candidly, I debated whether I was even going to put on a defense after that," Hampton said of her testimony. "But I wanted to err on the side of caution."

Jurors were taken to their cars before the rest of the courtroom was allowed out, so none were available for comment.

UPDATE 5:46 p.m.

Closing arguments have wrapped up and the jury has begun deliberations in the Grant County drug trial against ex-prosecutor Dan Harmon.

If convicted of the two charges of delivering a controlled substance, the 65-year-old Harmon could spend the rest of his life in prison. Prosecutors argued that Harmon traded pain pills for a peek at a confidential informant's breasts and later sold her morphine tablets.

Defense attorney Mark Hampton told jurors that prosecutors failed prove Harmon's guilt and that there were "incredible discrepancies" in stories provided by the state's witnesses. Sheridan Police Department drug task force supervisor Eddie Keathley and confidential informant Mary Daugherty differed on key details on how the purported drug deal went down, Hampton said, adding that was enough to acquit even without defense witnesses who raised further questions about whether a drug deal actually happened.

"Who do you believe?" Hampton asked jurors, emphasizing that they needed to be confident beyond a reasonable doubt to convict. "... That's the kind of proof you've had to have seen."

Hampton also questioned the legitimacy of Daugherty's testimony, noting she admitted struggling with addictions to pain pills and was arrested on a drug charge herself before volunteering to become an informant.

Special Prosecutor H.G. Foster, meanwhile, said the jury didn't have to like Daugherty, but that police need to use people like her as informants.

"People sell dope to other people who do dope," Foster said. "That's why confidential informants ... there's an awful lot not to like about them sometimes."

Keathley had no reason to lie in his testimony, Foster said, while defense witness Amber Luker has evident biases against police and Daugherty.

"What it comes down to is you all making the decison of what you're going o believe and what you're not going to believe, what's reasonable and what's not reasonable," he said.

UPDATE 4:56 p.m.

The second woman purported by prosecutors to have bared her breasts in exchange for pain pills from Dan Harmon testified Thursday that she never participated in any drug deal with the ex-prosecutor.

Amber Luker, who had been identified by police as a participant in the alleged transaction, told defense attorney Mark Hampton she never exposed herself in exchange for drugs or saw Harmon sell pills to anyone else. Mary Daugherty, a confidential police informant, testified earlier Thursday that she and Luker received hydrocodone pills from Harmon after showing him their breasts on Dec. 10 inside Daugherty's apartment.

That allegation is the basis for the first of two charges of delivering a controlled substance filed against the 65-year-old Harmon. The second charge reflects a similar incident days later in which Daugherty bought two morphine tablets from Harmon for $50, prosecutors have said.

Special Prosecutor H.G. Foster countered Luker's testimony by questioning why she considered the much-older Harmon a friend and pointing out that Daugherty and Luker used to be friends before having a falling out.

Kristy Mir, another woman who said she was with Daugherty and Harmon on Dec. 10, also told Hampton she did not see Harmon sell any drugs that day. The defense rested its case a short time later.

UPDATE 3:28 p.m.

A confidential informant who says she twice bought drugs from former prosecutor Dan Harmon took the stand at his trial Thursday in Sheridan.

Mary Daugherty said she received hydrocodone pills from Harmon on one occasion last December in exchange for her baring her breasts. Daugherty testified she bought two morphine tablets with $50 provided to her by police in a second exchange with Harmon less than a week later.

But defense attorney Mark Hampton worked to point out possible inconsistencies in Daugherty's story, questioning her admitted past addiction to the drugs she bought, her claim that she was not facing financial difficulties when she signed up to be a paid informant and her recollection of precisely how and where she bought the drugs from Harmon.

After brief testimony from Sheridan Police Department Assistant Chief Brent Cole, the state rested its case. The trial is expected to resume with the defense calling its witnesses at any time.

UPDATE 12:45 p.m.

The defense attorney for former prosecutor and accused drug dealer Dan Harmon plans to challenge the legitimacy of both the confidential informant central to the case and the investigatory tactics used by police.

Harmon is charged with two counts of delivery of a controlled substance. In one incident, authorities say Harmon handed pain pills over in exchange for a woman showing him her breasts. The woman was actually working as a police informant for a multi-agency drug task force.

But defense attorney Mark Hampton said that informant - identified as Mary Daugherty - has a history of addiction and can't be trusted. She was "down on her luck" and needed money when she agreed to cooperate with authorities after being arrested in a separate drug investigation, Hampton said during opening arguments.

"The sole issue in this case is are you going to believe the lies from this paid informant," he told the jury.

Hampton also repeatedly questioned the lack of audio or video from the purported drug buys and said the case would demonstrate "how ineffective law enforcement can be" in Grant County.

Special Prosecutor H.G. Foster said in his opening arguments that testimony from witnesses will show it is necessary to use confidential informants, particularly when dealing with "sophisticated" drug sellers who might recognize a police officer.

He said the jury will hear that Daugherty and another woman showed their breasts to Harmon on one occasion last December in exchange for hydrocodone pills. Days later, Daugherty used $50 in money provided by investigators to purchase two morphine pills, Foster said.

Daugherty is expected to take the stand later Thursday.

The trial broke for lunch midway through Hampton's questioning of Eddie Keathley, the supervisor of the Sheridan Police Department drug task force who oversaw the Harmon investigation.

UPDATE 11:17 a.m.

A jury of five men and seven women has been selected for the criminal trial of Dan Harmon, the former prosecutor accused of dealing drugs.

Harmon, who is free on bond, is charged with two counts of delivery of a controlled substance. In one incident, authorities say Harmon handed pain pills over in exchange for money and two women showing him their breasts.

Harmon arrived at the Grant County Courthouse shortly after 8:45 a.m. and jury selection began about 15 minutes later.

Circuit Judge Chris Williams did not pick an alternate juror, telling the group the trial might last only one day.

Defense attorney Mark Hampton told prospective jurors the "very, very serious charges" could send the 65-year-old Harmon to prison for the rest of his life. Hampton then reminded the group the burden of proof rests with the state and said that Harmon is not expected to take the stand.

"He doesn't have to prove anything," Hampton said. "The burden is completely on the state."

Special Prosecutor H.G. Foster questioned possible jurors about their views on circumstantial evidence, drugs and the meaning of reasonable doubt. He also asked if the would-be jurors would take issue with the police using a confidential informant who is not a police officer.

"Would you hold that against the case?" Foster asked. "Is the case snakebit from the get-go if that's how it had to be made?"

About 75 jurors were called and several were dismissed when they approached Williams with undisclosed issues. Several were initially allowed to remain after saying they had some connection with Harmon, including a woman who said she briefly dated him in high school.

According to a pair of probable cause affidavits, Harmon sold drugs on two occasions in December 2009 in Sheridan. In one instance, he gave a confidential police informant and another woman hydrocodone pills in exchange in part for them baring their breasts, according to one affidavit.

Police say Harmon then sold morphine tablets to a confidential informant less than a week later. According to that affidavit, Harmon first told the woman he wanted to see her breasts in exchange for the drugs but then accepted $50.

Harmon, who has pleaded innocent, was prosecutor for Grant, Hot Spring and Saline counties from 1979 to 1980 and from 1991 through 1996. He was previously convicted in 1997 on federal racketeering, extortion and drug conspiracy charges. He was released in 2006.

Read tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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