Visiting Judge Charles Chapman had a message Thursday in 35th District Court for Donnie Barnum: "Get those guns out of your house."
Barnum, 49, avoided prison as Chapman ruled that the former Precinct 1 constable had violated his probation by allowing 10 guns to be in his home on the south edge of Brownwood. Chapman said he is allowing Barnum, 49, to serve the remainder of his 10-year probation for evidence tampering - with a caveat: Barnum must serve 60 days in the Brown County Jail.
Chapman awarded Barnum credit for the time he has already served in the jail, where Barnum has been incarcerated since Nov. 16. Barnum turned himself in that day after the Assistant District Attorney Tommy Adams filed a motion to revoke Barnum's probation.
Chapman ruled on the matter following a sometimes-feisty hearing that lasted much of the day and included testimony from Barnum and three of his family members, Joe Cooksey, law enforcement officers and probation officers.
Barnum was represented by San Angelo attorneys Justin Mock and Melvin Gray, and Austin attorney Jennifer Riggs. Barnum said the 10 firearms - a mix of pistols and rifles - had once belonged to him but that he had given them to his daughter because, as a probationer, he wasn't allowed to have firearms. The guns were locked up in a safe in his daughter's bedroom and Barnum did not have access to them, he said.
Barnum's father, Stormy, a former county employee, testified for the defense that he believed local authorities were retaliating against his son. The reason, Stormy Barnum said: Stormy is a witness against the case against Precinct 1 Commissioner Steve Adams, who was indicted in September on a charge of theft by a public servant.
Stormy Barnum testified he gave grand jury testimony against Adams.
That line of questioning ended after Tommy Adams objected, saying it was not relevant. Chapman directed the defense to move on.
Thursday's hearing began with Chapman granting a defense motion to quash one of the prosecution's allegations: that Barnum had participated in the disclosure to the public of the contents of a closed emergency meeting of the Brown County Commissioners Court.
Adams proceeded with the remaining 10 allegations related to firearms. Adams called state's witnesses who laid out a chronology of events beginning in 2005, when Barnum attempted to make a traffic stop on a motorcyclist who had won a small judgment from Barnum in a pay dispute.
That attempted traffic stop led to two misdemeanor charges against Barnum of official oppression and a felony charge of evidence tampering.
Barnum stood trial before a 35th District Court jury in April 2006. He was convicted of all three charges and placed on 10 years probation in the felony case.
Earlier this year, Barnum sought an early release from his probation. The probation department indicated at that time that he had been a good probationer.
On Nov. 9, probation officer Jay Curtis and sheriff's deputies searched Barnum's home, exercising a probation clause that subjects probationers to search. Curtis said the purpose of the search was to ensure that he had been complying with the terms of his probation.
Barnum was not home, and Barnum's wife, Darla, escorted the officers inside. She told them that a guns safe was in the bedroom that, until recently, had been occupied by the Barnum's daughter, Kim Manglberger. Darla Barnum called her daughter to come to the home and open the safe, as she was the only person with the combination, according to testimony.
Donnie Barnum testified that he'd had no access to the guns and had not intended to violate any laws. "I didn't have any access to that safe whatsoever," Barnum testified, insisting that he hadn't touched a firearm in all the time he's been on probation.
Adams asked Barnum about three sets of brass knuckles that were also found in the gun safe. He said those had belonged to him but he'd never carried or used them and had given them to his daughter along with the guns.
Adams asked Barnum what people do with brass knuckles.
"Idiots fight with them in the street," Barnum replied.
"And keep them in their home?" Adams asked.
"Are you referring to me as an idiot?" Barnum shot back.
"That's argumentative, but I'll move on," Adams said.
In his closing argument, Gray told Chapman that "this defendant never intended to violate the law ... this probationer was doing everything he thought he needed to do."
Chapman said he can't believe Barnum did not have access to the guns, but said he won't be sending Barnum to prison.