By Joshua Winata
The Cove Herald
Place 6 Councilman Fred Harris was deemed to have not violated the terms of his probation despite written allegations from Mayor Roger O’Dwyer that Harris entered an establishment serving alcohol during a recent Association of the United States Army conference.
Harris, who received permission from the court to attend the 2007 AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., from Oct. 8 to 10, joined fellow council members at a reception hosted by a local restaurant with an open bar during the event.
According to the conditions of supervision set by the court, Harris must “abstain from purchasing, possessing, owning, consuming and/or using of alcoholic beverages in any form” and “not go upon any premises where alcoholic beverages are served.”
Gina DeBottis, chief of the special prosecutions unit in Huntsville, who was appointed as prosecutor in Harris’ case after the district attorney recused his office, said there is insufficient evidence to revoke the probation.
“Mr. Harris was in Washington, D.C., as an elected official of the city of Copperas Cove, and he, along with many other individuals, were doing a tribute to soldiers,” DeBottis said. “There is no evidence that he was drinking alcohol, and based on those facts, I do not anticipate filing a motion to revoke at this time.”
If such actions were to be taken, Harris could face time in prison.
Harris was placed on deferred adjudication for the offense of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon due to an incident that occurred Dec. 4, 2005, when he allegedly displayed a firearm following a verbal altercation with a former employee. The court-ordered community supervision is effective for a period of eight years starting Jan. 5, 2007.
Efforts to reach Harris by telephone for comment this week were unsuccessful.
O’Dwyer was notified of the potential breach of probation by Cove resident Diane Steele upon his return from the AUSA conference. The mayor responded by sending a letter to 52nd Judicial District Judge Phillip Ziegler on Oct. 15 inquiring whether Harris’ conditions of supervision had changed. DeBottis also received a copy of the correspondence.
“I am a good citizen. I believe that somebody has violated a legal constraint,” said O’Dwyer, who claims his actions have resulted in some backlash from city employees. “I am the one who is now under fire. I am not spoken to by several members of the city.”
O’Dwyer also questioned the sense of duty of other council members who were present at the function and did not report Harris.
“Everybody on that City Council knew Mr. Harris was on probation and knew that Mr. Harris should not frequent places where alcohol is served or consumed,” he said. “I’m the only one who said anything about it.”
City staff had no comment on the situation, calling it “a personal matter between Mayor Roger O’Dwyer and Councilman Fred Harris,” said Public Information Officer Kelly Dix.
Contact Joshua Winata at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 547-6481