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Updated: Constable ouster case postponed after lawyer arrested at courthouse

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By The Staff

By TERRI LIKENS

tlikens@roanecounty.com

An attempt to oust Roane County Constable Mark Patton from office ended in a last-minute postponement Tuesday after a scuffle between his attorney and courthouse officials.

Lawyer Chris Cawood was taken into custody at about 9 a.m. on the first-floor landing of Roane County Courthouse during a shoving incident with a court bailiff and Constable L.K. “Butch” Barding.

Cawood was charged with resisting arrest, and was released on his own recognizance with a requirement of good behavior.

Officials seeking Patton’s ouster were willing to wait for Cawood to make bond and get back to the courtroom.

“My position is I’ve got three days on the calendar for this,” said County Attorney Tom McFarland, who filed the ouster suit with District Attorney Russell Johnson. “I can wait for him to go make bond, come back here and try this.”

However, a short time later, court officials announced the case was being continued “for obvious reasons.”

“We were ready,” McFarland said with a note of disappointment from the courtroom where the

trial was to be held before Circuit Judge Russell Simmons.

Behind him, Johnson was on a cell phone contacting some of the dozens of witnesses summoned — many who were still on their way to the hearing.

McFarland said people were coming from as far away as Jamestown and Kingsport to testify in the afternoon portion of the

trial.

What happens next is still up in the air.

McFarland said after the incident, Simmons asked for a pretrial conference with attorneys “for a discussion of all of the issues.”

Later, Johnson said the conference will probably take place next week.

Johnson also said the trial will now likely be held outside Roane County because the circuit judge won’t be holding court in the county again until September.

The altercation began shortly after Cawood and Patton arrived at the courthouse for the day’s proceedings.

Security officer Terry Stooksbury, who operates the metal detector and conducts searches at the courthouse entrance, put his hand on Patton’s elbow, then he and Patton had words.

Cawood insisted Stooksbury remove his hand. The two argued, with Cawood using  liberal profanity, before he ascended the steps.

The confrontation continued with bailiff Melvin Page and Barding, who went to  the courthouse to watch the proceedings. It ended with sheriff’s deputies handcuffing the attorney and leading him out of the courthouse.

Patton has been accused of misconduct that includes threatening other law enforcement officers and assaulting residents.

Before the trial, Cawood pulled Patton’s “big stick,” a club-like piece of wood, from his vehicle to allow pictures by a news photographer.

Patton has said the stick is all the weapon he needs.

Cawood did not return a phone call for comment by press time Tuesday.