BY MELANIE BUCK –
Lance W. Harjo, age 44 of Mena, was sentenced to 136 years in Polk County Circuit Court last Thursday [June 9, 2016] by a jury of his peers following a one day trial where he was found guilty of seven criminal counts.
Harjo was arrested in January of this year after a year-long collaborative investigation by the 18th West Judicial Task Force and Polk County Sheriff’s Department, led to a search warrant being served to his home where officers found a large amount of guns and methamphetamine.
During his testimony, Harjo’s own defense attorney asked him if he was sorry for what he had done. Harjo responded, “I’m sorry that I got caught but I had a hell of a time doing it.” According to Prosecuting Attorney Andy Riner speculated that it was Harjo’s lack of remorse that landed him so much time from the jury. “He’s the only drug dealer I’ve seen that actually made a ‘good living’ being a drug dealer,” said Riner. Harjo was found with almost $8,000 in cash and 318 grams of methamphetamine that, along with more than a dozen guns, and marijuana carried a street value of $32,800. Harjo also had a surveillance system installed at the residence.
Guns found inside the home included an AK-47, an AR-15, a tactical shotgun, and pistols. All were loaded with exception to the shotgun. Riner, as he held up the confiscated AR-15 assault rifle in court, asked Harjo if he would’ve killed someone with the gun if they had tried to steal his drugs. Harjo said no, but that he is a ‘gun nut’ and it’s a ‘good gun’ and advised Riner to get one for himself. Riner said, “I do have one of these at my house but I don’t have the 318 grams of methamphetamine like you did.” Harjo responded that Riner should’ve come and seen him and he would’ve hooked him up.
Riner called the quantity drugs found ‘outrageous’ and said there was more found in a storage unit that wasn’t admitted into court proceedings until the sentencing phase of the trial along with 3.5 pounds of C4 explosives, blasting caps, and more guns.
Riner also asked Harjo if he ever thought about his drugs getting into the hands of elementary, middle and high school students. Harjo testified that he never pushed drugs on anybody and it wouldn’t get into the hands of kids. Riner asked what if the drugs did get into the hands of children and Harjo said, “Well, they could fall into a well too.”
Riner credited 18th West Judicial Task Force officer, Jeff Fields, and Polk County Deputy Ronnie Richardson for their hard work and dedication to the case. He said the pair worked on the case for more than a year, gathering evidence to retain a search warrant.
After hearing all testimony and evidence, the jury of 12 deliberated into the late evening hours before finding Harjo guilty of all charges.
Harjo was convicted of Trafficking Methamphetamine for which he was sentenced to 40 years in ADC; Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, 20 years; Simultaneous Possession of Drugs and Firearms, 40 years; Maintaining a Drug Premises, 10 years; Use of a Communication Device, 10 years; Possession of a Defaced Firearm, 6 years; and Possession of Marijuana with the Purpose to Deliver, 10 years. Each sentence is set to run consecutively, leaving Harjo facing a 136-year sentence in ADC.
He will not be eligible for parole for more than 40 years. Upon sentencing, Harjo was remanded to the Polk County Detention Center to await an opening at the Arkansas Department of Corrections.
“It was easy for the jury to understand that this guy was a bad drug dealer and they wanted him off the street. I think the jury sent a message that they are not going to tolerate that in this county. If you come here and deal drugs, you’re eventually going to get caught and there’s going to be a heavy price to pay,” said Riner.