The 53-year-old was scheduled to appear at the Guinn Justice Center on Monday morning as the legal representative for a man who was facing felony chargers. But when Conover attempted to enter the building, the metal-detector sounded off.
Security guards found that Conover was carrying a loaded Ruger LC9 semiautomatic 9mm handgun in a hollowed-out case designed to resemble an antique book, Johnson County Sheriff Bob Alford told The Crowley Star.
Conover does not have a concealed carry permit, but even if he did, it would have been against the law for him to carry it inside the courthouse, noted Johnson County Justice of the Peace, Ronny McBroom.
When sheriffs arrived on the scene they also discovered that in addition to carrying a concealed firearm without a permit, Conover’s blood-alcohol content exceeded the state’s legal limit, 0.08. In short, he was drunk.
According to the police report, Conover said that he often carries a loaded firearm because he “had been threatened by former clients.”
However, in this particular instance, he simply forgot he had the pistol with him, Conover told the sheriffs.
Conover’s story was later reiterated by LuAnne Leonard, the secretary for the Johnson County Democrat Party, who said in a statement, “Today was an unfortunate mistake, coupled with poor judgment. The gun was located in a book that was in his attache case. He forgot the gun was there and inadvertently took it into the courthouse.”
So, it appears that Conover broke several laws: carrying concealed without a permit, carrying concealed while drunk, trying to carry a concealed firearm into a prohibited place, which is a third degree felony, and public intoxication — it appears he was only officially charged with the last two.
But Conover’s attorney, Ben Hill Turner, worked his magic and Conover was let off easy. He paid a $300 fine for the public intoxication charge and in exchange for having the gun-related charges dropped volunteered to go to a treatment center.
“I set the [bail] at $2,000 just because he agreed to go straight to a treatment center,” McBroom said.
Conover posted bail and was released from custody on Monday night. However, his run-in with the law cost him his political career — at least for the foreseeable future.
On Monday, via email, Conover resigned as chairman of the Johnson County Democratic Party.
“It caught me completely unaware,” Brown said. “I was totally shocked. I’ve known Bill for probably 25 years.”
Perhaps this is a cautionary tale. The lesson? Don’t get drunk and then attempt to bring a loaded firearm into a courthouse.