Commissioner takes oath, then arraigned
A new charge of possessing a firearm after former conviction of a felony was filed Monday against a man elected in November as a county commissioner in Roger Mills County. The new charge would also be a felony if the suspect is convicted.
John Michael Gerald Hindman, 58, of Durham, is the suspect. He is also known as Jack Hindman and Jackie Hindman.
Sheriff Darren Atha said Hindman was sworn in as District 3 commissioner at 10 a.m. Wednesday, then appeared before Associate District Judge Pat VerSteeg on the new charge. Judge VerSteeg released him on his own recognizance, meaning he did not have to post a cash bond.
Hindman, a Democrat, won the commissioner’s seat decisively in November, polling 318 votes compared to 197 for Republican Dan Sides. He had defeated incumbent Jim Barber in the Democratic primary.
The district includes the northwest corner of the county.
Hindman is charged with possessing a .17 HMR rifle in the front seat of his vehicle after being convicted in Roger Mills County of possessing marijuana with intent to distribute in 1991. That rifle and another one, a 6.5-millimeter Creedmoor, were allegedly found Saturday in his truck when it was checked by Deputy Sheriff Garrett Logan and Game Warden Orlando Martinez.
An affidavit written by Logan says the suspect admitted shooting three to five times from the road at a coyote in a field but denied shooting any deer. However, it says he did admit being in an area where a dead deer was found. In fact, the affidavit says he and another individual, Kyle Watkins, found the deer themselves and loaded it onto a truck with intentions of calling the sheriff. Logan said they then decided not to mess with it and took it back to where they had found it and left it there.
The deputy wrote that he got involved Saturday when a report was received of someone firing a rifle from a four-door truck with a flat bed parked in the roadway. The incident supposedly occurred somewhere near the intersection of county roads 1690 and 790, so Logan went there.
Shortly after his arrival, Game Warden Martinez also arrived and spoke with the reporting party. From his description of the shooter, another deputy, Mark Whittington, thought the shooter could be Jackie Hindman, so Logan and Martinez proceeded to his house in Durham and spoke with him and Watkins. That’s when they were told the deer had been found but returned to the pasture where they had found it.
“I then informed Kyle and Jackie that Jackie was a felon and could not be in possession of a firearm,” wrote Logan. “Jackie stated he had a lawyer that was working on getting him pardoned of it.”
The two officers then asked to see the rifles and were shown a case containing the 6.5 Creedmor. Watkins claimed ownership.
Next they asked to see the other gun – the 17HMR listed in the charge. They were told it was still in Hindman’s truck. Going there, they allegedly found it on the driver’s side with a loaded magazine and empty chamber.
The next day, on Sunday, the two lawmen – accompanied by another game warden – went back to Hindman’s residence in Durham.
“Jackie then admitted to being in that area during the time of the deer being poached,” wrote Logan. “Jack stated that he shot from the road three or four times at a coyote in the field. He stated he did not shoot any deer in that field. When asked about the rifles, Jackie stated that Kyle had the 6.5 Creedmor next to him in the seat and he had the 17HMR next to him in the driver’s seat.”
Asked if Hindman could legally run for commissioner as a convicted felon, District Attorney Angela Marsee said the statute requires that a candidate must have been a registered voter for six months immediately preceding the first day of the filing period. She said Hindman’s previous conviction was in 2001 and he was given a 10-year sentence, so at the time he filed it had been more than 10 years.
“He was qualified to run and be elected,” she said. “There was no protest filed.”
Mrs. Marsee said she is recusing not only herself but also her staff from the case because Roger Mills County is one of their clients. “I’m sending a letter of recusal today,” she said.
Presumably, Attorney General Mike Hunter will appoint another D.A. to prosecute the case further.