Friday, July 14, 2006

FROM THE PUBLISHER >> Robinson charged in assualt of former partner

Leader publisher

Brinkley police have charged former Arkansas Cong. Tommy Robin-son with assaulting Cabot businessman Bill Thompson over a financial dispute.

Police have also charged Robin-son’s son, Greg, in the alleged assault at Gene’s Barbecue on Tuesday.

The Robinsons were booked at the Brinkley Police Department on Thursday and released on their own recognizance.

Gene’s Barbecue is normally a friendly place where diners eat quietly as they savor the food, but according to Thompson and several other witnesses, things got ugly when the Robinson clan and Thompson found themselves in the same small restaurant.

Thompson, a former friend and business partner of Tommy Robin-son’s, along with two of his sons, said he was having dinner at 7:15 p.m. when the former congressman “ap-proached my table and started calling me outside to whip my ass. I refused to do that!” according to the police report.

Tommy Robinson and Thomp-son have been feuding for years, ever since Thompson pushed Robinson out as a partner in Wildlife Farms, the hunting and birdwatching lodge near Brinkley.

Now Robinson is facing bankruptcy with $3 million in farm debt and very few assets, other than his Brinkley liquor store, which is just a few yards from the barbecue place. Robinson claims Thompson is trying to take it away from him. Thompson denies it.

Thompson told police that Robinson walked up to his table “and accused me of financing the liquor store for (lodge employees) Jimmy and Allison Medford to buy, which is untrue.”

According to Thompson’s affidavit, Robinson told him “he was going to whip my ass again. I was hit in the head and neck by his son Greg Robinson. I covered my face with my hands and continued to be hit. At that point, I don’t know who hit me. I was bleeding from the head.”

Several witnesses in the restaurant confirmed Thomp-son’s statement to the police.

You don’t often see any altercations at Gene’s Barbecue. About the most exciting thing that happens there is when a customer might complain about the sauce being too hot or not hot enough.

Sure, somebody might say the barbecue is better at Craig’s in DeValls Bluff, and people might argue about whether the ivory-billed woodpecker is still in the nearby woods.

Thompson hopes it’s still there since he has converted his hunting lodge into a place for bird watchers to roam the area for woodpeckers and other birds.

Everybody remembers Tommy Robinson: Former Jacksonville police chief, state public safety director during Gov. Clinton’s first administration (that would be in the late 1970s, boys and girls), Pulaski County sheriff in the early 1980s (housing chained prisoners in tents when the jail was full), Democratic congressman after that, switching to the Republican Party at decade’s end, then running unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination for governor against Sheffield Nelson (whatever happened to him?).

You couldn’t miss what happened to Robinson in the 1990s and at turn of the new century: He dropped out of politics and became a gentleman farmer in Brinkley, which is where Nelson is from, although Robinson’s detractors have insisted he’s neither a gentleman nor a farmer.

Thompson might second that notion. He was taken to Baptist Memorial Hospital in Forrest City, where doctors treated his injuries. He was later released.