Attorney arrested on weapons, intoxication charges at Johnson County courthouse

Posted Monday, Jul. 29, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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A Cleburne attorney who is also chairman of the Johnson County Democratic Party was arrested Monday on suspicion of public intoxication and carrying a prohibited weapon in a courts building, authorities said.

Bill Conover, 53, a former Texas assistant attorney general, paid a $300 fine on the intoxication charge and was released from jail early Monday afternoon, said Ronny McBroom, Johnson County Pct. 1 justice of the peace.

Conover’s lawyer, Ben Hill Turner, worked out a deal for Conover’s release on the handgun charge, McBroom said.

“I set the [bail] at $2,000 just because he agreed to go straight to a treatment center,” McBroom said.

Conover resigned as county party chairman later Monday, Vice Chairwoman Linda Brown said.

Johnson County Sheriff Bob Alford said Conover tried to enter the Guinn Justice Center at 9:20 a.m. but was stopped when a metal detector sounded.

Security officers found a loaded Ruger LC9 semiautomatic 9mm handgun concealed in a hollowed-out case designed to resemble an antique book, Alford said.

Conover does not have a concealed-carry handgun license, Alford said.

McBroom noted that “even if he had a permit to carry it, he couldn’t have carried it into the courthouse.”

Turner told officials that Conover forgot the gun was in his possession when he came to court for a hearing, which was canceled, Alford said.

The sheriff declined to provide Conover’s blood-alcohol level. The legal threshold in Texas is 0.08 percent, Alford said, and “he exceeded that.”

“It’s an unfortunate thing, a bad choice and a bad decision,” Alford said.

Neither Conover nor Turner immediately returned calls for comment from the Star-Telegram.

Brown said Conover resigned via email.

Conover called her Monday and said he would be out of town for at least a month and that it would be up to her to arrange a speaker for the organization’s next meeting, Brown said.

He called again later, Brown said, to let her know that he had just emailed his resignation as party chairman.

“It caught me completely unaware,” Brown said. “I was totally shocked. I’ve known Bill for probably 25 years.”

Brown said she was “stepping up to take care of things” until the party’s executive committee decides what to do next.

On the county party website, Conover declares, “I am a Yellow Dawg Democrat! I have voted straight ticket Democrat in every general election since 1978, and I always will!”

The statement goes on to remind readers that Johnson County wasn’t always predominantly Republican.

“There was a time when most of our local officials were true-blue Democrats,” he wrote. “Perhaps, with your help we can achieve balance in our county once more.”

According to his website, Conover was valedictorian of Cleburne High School in 1978. He received a bachelor’s degree from Baylor University in 1982 and a law degree from Baylor Law School in 1984.

He was an assistant Texas attorney general from 1984 to 1993. From 1993 to 2000, he served as general counsel for the Texas Commission on Human Rights.

In that role, he worked on the highly publicized case involving complaints that the Ku Klux Klan tried to run black people out of a housing complex in the East Texas town of Vidor, according to news reports from the time.

He has operated his Cleburne law firm since 2001, according to the website.

Alford noted that Conover has family roots in Cleburne. The playing field at Yellow Jacket Stadium is called “Books Conover Field.”

This report contains material from Star-Telegram archives.

Bill Miller, 817-390-7684 Twitter: @Bill_MillerST Terry Evans, 817-390-7620 Twitter: @fwstevans

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