Friday, February 04, 2011

TOP STORY > >Brawl leads to fines for Cabot men

Leader staff writer

Jack McNally, the new Lonoke County assessor, and Odis Way-mack, a former Cabot alderman, were both found guilty of disorderly conduct in Cabot District Court on Thursday in connection with an altercation following an October forum for Cabot mayoral candidates.

Both were fined $100 plus $100 for court fees. But the misdemeanor charges will be treated as civil charges and not become part of a criminal record.

Beebe District Judge TeresaHughes, the special judge in the case, refused to allow a second- degree assault charge against Waymack who struck McNally in the back of the neck and she told the special prosecutor, Beebe City Attorney Brent Walker, that he failed to prove the seconddegree assault charge against McNally for striking Henry Lang, a member of the Lonoke County Quorum Court.

It was disturbing, Hughes said, that elected officials could not deport themselves properly in public.

Since Arkansas law doesn’t recognize “fighting words,” Tim Blair, representing Waymack, tried to show that McNally’s comments, combined with a light blow to Waymack’s right shoulder, and his blindness, made the older man feel threatened and thereby justified his striking McNally.

McNally is 54 and Waymack is 78.

Although Waymack admitted to striking McNally, McNally said he didn’t strike either Waymack or Lang. He may have inadvertently tapped them while he was “in their faces,” he said.

Hughes said while watching a tape of the altercation made by cameras at the community center, where the forum was held, that she couldn’t tell what was happening.

“Gentlemen, I’m going to be honest with you,” the judge said. “All I see is three people standing around and rapid movement and it looks like somebody turns away.”

McNally’s attorney, Christian Alexander of Jacksonville, said Waymack’s blow was clearly retaliation for the remarks that McNally characterized as just an opinion, not a threat.

“How did you get off your leash, you piece of dog s***t?” McNally said he asked Waymack.

“I could have told him he was a handsome devil, but right then I thought he was a piece of dog s**t,” McNally said.

The question, McNally said, was his opportunity to get even with Waymack for a grudge he had held for six years.

Waymack was the person who made it public that McNally was under police investigation while he was employed by Cabot as a code-enforcement officer. No charges were filed against McNally but two residents said he illegally removed property from houses they weren’t occupying.

When Eddie Joe Williams (now a state senator) took office as mayor in January 2007, he laid off McNally. But McNally told the court that Waymack told him before Williams took office that he would be fired.

He was angry with Waymack because he had threatened the job that fed his family, McNally said.

Lang got involved after McNally spoke to Waymack. Lang testified that he was acquainted with both men but not really friends with either. But when he heard McNally speaking in a derogatory manner to Waymack, he intervened telling him that the forum was no place to use such language. His concern was less for Waymack than for the propriety of the situation, he said.

McNally testified that he told Lang to “Shut up. I’m not talking to you. I’m talking to this jerk over here.”

It was at that point, that Lang said McNally struck Waymack hard enough in his abdomen to aggravate a hernia that had troubled him for many years. Waymack told the court that since he is blind, he didn’t see the blow. No other witnesses saw it and it was not visible on the tape.

Waymack testified that he felt threatened because of McNally’s abusive language and because McNally struck him first, although not very hard.

The judge was clearly not buying any of it.

She said she was concerned that McNally, who was visibly angry while testifying, could hold a grudge for six years.

And although she told Waymack that she sympathized with him for the blindness that kept him from realizing that McNally had already turned to leave when he struck him, his action was unacceptable.

“He threw a haymaker and if he didn’t hit McNally, he might have hit someone else,” the judge said.

The altercation was just days before McNally was elected as county assessor.

“I think politics has probably raised its ugly head in this case,” Hughes said.