DIXON, Mo. (Jan. 26, 2011) — A long-running legal dispute between a Dixon businessman and a retired union worker took a sideways turn Wednesday morning when Associate Circuit Judge Ron White dismissed felony charges against Arnold Bassett, 68, the owner of Bassett Realty, on the grounds that a special prosecutor, Michael A. Anderson, has repeatedly failed to show up for court.
Until Wednesday’s dismissal, Bassett faced Class C felony charges of second degree assault accusing him of using his pickup truck to try to run over Dale Saunchegrow, 58, who was riding a lawnmower on property south of Dixon which Saunchegrow claims he needs to access as the designated representative of a private water company. Bassett could receive seven years in state prison or a $5,000 fine if convicted.
For his part, Saunchegrow originally faced Class B felony charges of first degree assault and armed criminal accusing him of knowingly attempting to cause serious injury to Bassett by shooting a firearm into the truck being driven by Bassett; a different judge dismissed those charges after Anderson failed to show up for a Sept. 15 hearing. Saunchegrow could have faced five to 15 years in state prison for that offense, plus an additional five years for the armed criminal action felony; he still faces Class A misdemeanor charges accusing him of violating ex-parte no-contact orders barring him from contact with members of the Bassett family.
Saunchegrow tried to enter a statement into Wednesday’s court proceedings but wasn’t permitted to do so.
“Your honor, I’m the man he tried to run over with his truck. I have a statement you need to read,” Saunchegrow said.
The judge wouldn’t accept the document but clearly wasn’t happy with the prosecutor’s failure to show up for court.
“Sir, I don’t know who you are,” White said to Saunchegrow. “I can’t read a statement brought into court; I’m here for a preliminary hearing. The special prosecuting attorney has failed to appear for the second time and I’m dismissing the case.”
“He’s supposed to be here,” Saunchegrow said.
“Yes, he is — he was supposed to be here eight minutes ago,” the judge replied.
Speaking after the court hearing, Saunchgrow said he’ll try to get prosecutors to re-file.
“Yes, 10-4,” Saunchegrow said. “This man tried to do bodily harm to me and he’s lied about it.”
In addition to the lawnmower-pickup truck case, Saunchegrow faces two additional Class A misdemeanor charges of violating an ex parte order of protection “by stalking Malinda Bassett by repeatedly driving by the office wherein Malinda Bassett works” and by “stopping his vehicle in the roadway where there is no stop sign and sat and stared at her while said Malinda Bassett was exiting her vehicle, and said incident occurred the morning after (Saunchegrow) was bonded out of jail on charges of discharging 5-6 rounds into the truck Malinda Bassett’s father was driving, the evening before.”
That office is Bassett Realty in Dixon. Saunchegrow could face an additional year in jail or $1,000 fine for each of the stalking charges, and from his side, Saunchgrow has accused Arnold Bassett in court documents of having “threatened me with a cordless screw gun” when he tried to do service work on the disputed well house, claims that Arnold Bassett “wouldn’t let me leave well house,” called the sheriff’s department, “purposely harasses me when I go to town” and “comes into businesses and harasses and threatens me when I’m in town.”
At one point, numerous other claims and counter-claims of stalking and other forms of harassment had been filed between Saunchegrow, Bassett, and other family members and friends. At least seven separate cases were once pending involving Saunchegrow and Arnold Bassett, Mindy Bassett, Kent Bassett, Donna Bassett, Malinda Bassett and Darrin Davis, but most were dropped or dismissed last summer, though Bassett family members continue to accuse Saunchegrow of various forms of harassment and Saunchegrow makes similar claims against the Bassetts.
Most of the charges against Saunchegrow and Arnold Bassett stem from an April 29 incident in which, according to a probable cause statement filed by sheriff’s deputies with the court, Saunchegrow “stated that he was on his riding mower, saw Mr. Bassett on his private roadway (Cooper Lane), and blocked Mr. Bassett’s vehicle by turning his riding mower sideways in front of Mr. Bassett’s vehicle. Mr. Bassett then drove forward into Mr. Saunchgrow’s mower while Mr. Saunchegrow was still on it. Mr. Bassett then proceeded to push Mr. Saunchegrow and his lawnmower off to the side of the roadway. Mr. Saunchegrow further stated after being shoved by Mr. Bassett’s vehicle, he got off his mower and defended his self by firing 5 or 6 shots into Mr. Bassett’s truck, stopping it from further movement. When Mr. Saunchegrow emptied his weapon that he had on him at the time, he ran to his nearby garage and retrieved another weapon, stating Mr. Bassett had a weapon with him.”
Anderson, a Houston attorney and son of the Texas County Prosecuting Attorney, filed the charges against Bassett in a document dated July 1 of last year but not filed with the Pulaski County Circuit Clerk’s office until July 27.
Anderson wasn’t named the special prosecutor until July 7, when Texas County Associate Circuit Judge Doug Gaston agreed to a June 29 request by Deborah Hooper, who at that time was the Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney, to appoint a special prosecutor “due to the fact that she attends church with (Bassett’s) son, a candidate for election on the same party ticket … although (Hooper) has prosecuted cases concerning members of her church, either as defendants or witnesses, due to the volatility of this case and the other case, she feels it best be handled by an attorney outside this county, with fresh eyes.”
That son is Brent Bassett; both Bassett and Hooper attend Westside Baptist Church of Waynesville.
Brent Bassett won the Republican Party primary in August for the county clerk’s job and became the county clerk at the end of the year since he had no Democratic Party opposition in the November general election. Hooper lost that August primary and is no longer the Pulaski County prosecutor.
In her June 29 request, Hooper wrote that she originally asked a different attorney, Lance Thurman, to take the case but was notified that Thurman “has a conflict” and that “due to the fact that both the defendant and the alleged victim have retained, through the years, several attorneys within this county, (Hooper) has had to seek counsel from outside the Phelps and Pulaski County area.”
Although Hooper wrote in her request to the court that Anderson had agreed to accept the case, Wednesday’s failure to appear is only the most recent in a string of non-appearances.
Members of the Bassett family also showed up for court on Friday for what they expected would be a pre-trial conference in the charges against Saunchegrow, and while Judge Gaston drove up from Texas County to appear, the special prosecutor didn’t show up on that case, either.
Gaston called his judicial office in Texas County and learned that a continuance had been filed in the Friday case since Saunchegrow is invoking his right to a trial by jury.
Members of the Bassett family were furious, accusing Saunchegrow of willfully ignoring the court by stalking them and accusing Anderson of ignoring them by refusing to return phone calls.
“This has been going on since May, and he keeps violating and keeps violating,” said Mindy Bassett.
“I know you can’t hear the facts in this case, but shouldn’t the victims have been notified?” asked Arnold Bassett.
Gaston told the Bassetts that he would contact Anderson himself.
“I’ll make sure that the prosecutor handling this gets in contact with you,” Gaston said. “I’m going to make sure that he does, and if you have any further trouble, make sure that you notify the court.”
In addition to all the other legal wrangling, both Saunchegrow’s lawnmower and Bassett’s pickup truck have been seized as evidence and have accumulated thousands of dollars in unpaid towing and storage charges at Jack’s Towing in St. Robert — charges which both sides of the dispute say are excessive and which they refuse to pay.
The storage problem is complicated by the fact that the disputed wellhouse is on Cooper Lane, which Saunchegrow’s son-in-law, Donnie Ray, claims to own.
Ray is a Pulaski County Road and Bridge Department employee and former Eastern District Road Supervisor who claims Cooper Lane is a private road belonging to him; Bassett claims it’s not a private road and he has the right to travel on it. Since Ray is a county employee, storing the vehicles in county-owned facilities to which he might have access creates chain-of-custody evidence issues.
The document which Saunchegrow tried to get the judge to consider during Wednesday’s court hearing was written the previous afternoon by him as a voluntary statement to the sheriff’s department.
“At approximately 4:10 this afternoon, I pulled into my (Cooper Lane) driveway … sitting in the driveway was Cpl. (Regina) Utley with the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department,” according to Saunchegrow’s statement. “Arnold Bassett, Kent Bassett and Mindy Bassett were in the driveway also. They were taking pictures and measuring. I told them to leave, that they were trespassing on private property. Cooper Lane is a private road that is owned by my son-in-law, Donnie Ray. They have all been told to stay off this property. They said they had court permission to do this — they did not show any such paperwork. Arnold Bassett and Mindy Bassett have partial ex partes to stay away from me, wherever I am at, and my property where I live. Judges (Doug) Gaston and (Ralph) Haslag have told me and Arnold Bassett both in court to stay away from each other and each other’s homes and land.”
The document also contains an addition in a different color of ink signed by Ray stating that “they have been told to stay off. I, Donnie Ray, wish to press trespassing charges on them.”
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THIS ARTICLE: Special prosecutor doesn't show up; charges on Arnold Bassett dismissed
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