Politician Elected On Pledge To Invesigate Mena Backs Off!

"Bryant urged to pursue Mena drug issue"
 By  Max Parker
May 23, 1991

       Attorney General Winston Bryant was asked Wednesday to make good
 on a campaign promise to convene a grand jury to investigate a
drug-smuggling operation allegedly based at the Mena airport during
the 1980s.
        But Bryant said later that he neither promised nor has the
authority to empanel a grand jury.
      "I cannot do that," he said. "The attorney general's office has
no criminal authority other than in the very limited area of Medicaid
fraud, which has nothing to do with drug offenses. Any grand jury
that is convened has to be convened by a local prosecuting
       Petitions containing 900 signatures collected over a two-year
period were presented Wednesday to Lawrence Graves, Bryant's chief of
staff, during an afternoon news conference called by the Arkansas
Committee, a student group at the University of Arkansas at
Fayetteville. Bryant was in Conway on business at the time.
       "If we do not see some legitimate, productive effort to provide a
grand jury investigation, we'll continue to collect signatures and
alert the press about Mr. Bryant reneging on a campaign promise,"
said Mark Swaney, committee president.
      Carol Conger, the committee's information officer, said, "It
(the promise) affected the election, and people voted for Mr. Bryant
because of his stance on this issue."
      Bryant denied making any promise to convene a grand jury as he
successfully fought of Asa Hutchinson, the Republican nominee who is
now co-chairman of the state Republican Party, for the attorney
general's office last year.
     "Asa claimed to be tough on drugs during the campaign, and I
used the Mena situation to show he was prosecutor for five years and
he allowed the biggest drug-smuggling ring to continue for the whole
time," Bryant said.
       Hutchinson filed a lawsuit, which is still pending, contending
that he was slandered by Bryant's campaign assertions. The suit
refers to assertions that Hutchinson did not vigorously pursue
allegations that convicted drug smuggler Barry Seal used the Mena
airport as a base for cocaine operations.
      Hutchinson has said the investigation was in its early stages
when he resigned from the U.S. attorney's office in late 1985 to make
an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate.
       "Until Winston Bryant came out and made his statements against
Asa Hutchinson, there was a conspiracy of silence," said Tom Brown,
committee treasurer, speaking about his own attitude during the
campaign. "Winston Bryant broke that conspiracy and I support him
100 percent.
       Bryant said the "critical thing that happened is Barry Seal is

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