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Hamilton: County Refuses Friday To Pay Commissioner's Legal Fees

By: Paul J. Gately Email
By: Paul J. Gately Email
Hamilton County commissioners on Friday adjourned their meeting without deciding on a request from one of their own to pay legal fees he incurred after his arrest and trial for carrying handguns into the courthouse.

Hamilton County Commissioner Mark Tafel (Hamilton Herald-News photo)

HAMILTON (December 14, 2012)--In a meeting that lasted less than one minute, Hamilton County commissioners Friday adjourned without voting on a request from one commissioner to pay legal bills he incurred after being arrested for illegally carrying weapons into the courthouse.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Mark Tafel had asked the court to pay his $15,000 legal bill, which was incurred after he had to hire a lawyer to defend him in court last June.

A reporter who attended the meeting with a stopwatch said it took 36 seconds before the dismissal was announced.

Payment of the $15,000 likely would never have reached Stephenville attorney Gregg Lewellan, anyway, because an injunction granted by the 220th District Court directed that any funds granted Tafel be paid to his ex-wife after a default divorce settlement.

The injunction, called a Writ of Garnishment, outlines two existing sustainable judgments against Tafel that total $2,104,532.26 in favor of his ex-wife.

Had Tafel been awarded the $15,000 request, the money would have been assumed by the district court to help satisfy the judgment, the documents say.

Tafel was arrested in November 2011 after the county sheriff caught him carrying two handguns into the Hamilton County Courthouse.

Tafel, a concealed handgun permit holder, said at the time the county judge had written a letter that authorized him to carry the weapons in the courthouse.

State law prohibits concealed handgun license holders from carrying weapons "in any government court or offices" unless written regulations permit concealed weapons or unless the license holder has written authorization.

A statement issued in November 2011 by Hamilton County Sheriff Gregg Bewley said Tafel was carrying a semi-automatic pistol under his clothing at the meeting and that when deputies arrested him during a recess, a second firearm was found.

Tafel was indicted on two felony counts of carrying a concealed weapon in a prohibited place.

Tafel waived a jury trial and his case was heard in June by retired District Judge Philip Zeigler, who found him not guilty on the felonies but guilty on two misdemeanor counts of carrying a weapon into a public meeting.

Zeigler assessed his punishment at a fine of $1,500 on each count.


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