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Police: Woman did 'topless handstand'

Police: Woman did 'topless handstand'

Thief's history of wild and raunchy behavior whenever arrested in spotlight in court

April 28th, 2016 by Lynn LaRowe in Texarkana News

NEW BOSTON, Texas—A Texarkana, Texas, woman found guilty by a jury Wednesday of stealing beer from a local grocery store last year did a "topless handstand" in the courthouse Monday when officers took her into custody.

Annette Laverne Harris

Annette Laverne Harris

Annette Laverne Harris, 53, was scheduled to enter a plea Monday to a felony theft charge involving four swiped 30-packs of beer when she became belligerent and loud in the public, second-floor hallway of the county's courthouse. Harris' rantings about the criminal justice system could be easily heard as 102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart conducted hearings in other cases Monday before Harris was called that afternoon.

Lockhart told Harris he was ordering a drug test because of the disruptive behavior. When Harris admitted to having smoked marijuana the day before, Lockhart revoked her bond, ordered Harris into custody and scheduled the case for jury selection Tuesday. Harris immediately began to beg the judge for another chance and could be heard through the courtroom walls as she shouted and cursed for about 45 minutes from a secure area behind the courtrooms before officers from the Bi-State Justice Building in Texarkana arrived to transport her.

Harris' theft case went to trial Wednesday morning. A jury of seven men and five women found her guilty Wednesday afternoon, but Harris asked that Lockhart determine her punishment. Seven of the twelve jurors who found Harris guilty returned to the courtroom as spectators to watch the trial's sentencing phase.

Before testimony began Wednesday morning, Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp objected to Harris' use of a wheelchair in the courtroom, describing it as an attempt to gain the jury's sympathy. Lockhart declined to make Harris get out of the chair, though he did agree it was a "poor attempt" to raise the jury's emotions.

Crisp and Assistant District Attorney Lauren Richards called several members of law enforcement who have dealt with Harris recently—and as long as eight years ago—to discuss the way Harris behaves when confronted with the prospect of a jail cell.

"Everybody has seen her come in and out of court and she acts just fine," Crisp argued to Lockhart. "She likes to take her clothes off and scream about her genitals like a fool when she knows she's getting arrested. This lady right here is a menace. Somebody like this needs to go to jail for as long as we can put her there. The max is 24 months and she deserves every minute of it."

Crisp said Harris puts the public and law enforcement at risk.

"The testimony provided by the men and women of Texarkana, Texas, Police Department and Bowie County Sheriff's Office showed that Ms. Harris has repeatedly violated the law and resisted proper arrest and that her reckless, abusive behavior places our law enforcement officers in danger. The jury's verdict and the judge's sentence demonstrate that this defendant's lawless conduct simply won't be tolerated."

Bowie County Sheriff's Office Investigator Chad Ford testified he was called Monday to assist when Lockhart ordered Harris into custody.

"As soon as we put her in the witness room to await transport, she took off her T-shirt and bra, climbed under a chair and put her feet and rear end against the wall. It appeared she was attempting to do a topless handstand," Ford said.

Ford said he and other officers wrangled Harris back into her shirt and a pair of handcuffs.

"It was a long 45 minutes," Ford said.

Ford said Harris directed racial slurs at both white and black deputies, freely used profanity and "described vividly her female anatomy."

Texarkana, Texas, Police Officer Bo Carter told Lockhart he was so alarmed by Harris' outlandish conduct during a 2008 drug-related felony arrest that he turned his dash camera around to face her in his cruiser's back seat. Carter said Harris was already nude when he arrived to transport her to jail at the request of his department's Problem Oriented Policing team.

"She was making vulgar comments about her genitals and accusing officers of touching her genitals," Carter said. "She was rubbing herself on parts of my patrol car."

Carter said he feared Harris would break glass as she kicked the cage and windshield glass in his cruiser.

Texarkana, Texas, police officers James Harris and Karey Parker said Harris resisted arrest when they took her into custody Feb. 2, 2015, on the theft charge for which she was tried Wednesday.

"We each had to pick up a leg to get her inside the patrol unit. She kept stiffening her legs, so we had to drag her as we walked," James Harris said. "When we got going, she started kicking the left rear window. During the ride, she was yelling and cussing, causing a ruckus. She was saying disgusting things involving her body."

Parker said Annette Harris continued to shout about her vagina as officers booked her into the Bi-State Justice Building jail.

"Once we told her that she was under arrest, she wouldn't put her hands behind her back and kept putting her arms up. She kept spinning around. It took three officers to put her in cuffs," Parker said.

James Harris said staff at Albertson's grocery store on West Seventh Street in Texarkana, Texas, called police Feb. 2, 2015, about a woman in their store who had stolen four 30-packs of beer without being caught Jan. 27, 2015. James Harris said the store manager, Gus Schilling, stopped Annette Harris before she rode out of the store on a scooter with another four 30-packs that day and was able to jot down the plate number of the car she drove. With that information, the officers were able to track Annette Harris to a house on West Ninth Street in Texarkana, Texas.

Annette Harris tried to pay for four 30-packs of beer with a gift card at the pharmacy counter Jan. 27, 2015. When pharmacy tech Tanya Powell told Harris she only had a $1.11 balance on the card and the beer cost more than $85, Annette Harris motored away on a "smart cart," and headed out the door without paying. Police were unable to catch Harris, who Powell said had regularly filled prescriptions in the store for at least five years, because the address on file in the pharmacy was outdated.

Lockhart said he took note of her long list of prior convictions, including ones for theft of firearms, felony drug possession and criminal mischief, at sentencing, as well as notes concerning the reason one of her felony probations was revoked.

"There are two things that I always watch for in revocations. You were positive for cocaine and you weren't paying restitution. If you'd rather do dope than pay these people back that you steal from, you need to be in prison," Lockhart said. "I think the reason she went back Feb. 2 (to steal beer from Albertson's) was that she got away with it Jan. 27. And I think the reason she only took four cases (of beer) is 'cause that's all the cart would hold."

Lockhart said he doesn't believe Annette Harris has a mental health problem.

"I think she has a problem with getting arrested," Lockhart said.

Lockhart sentenced Annette Harris to 23 months in a Texas state jail, one month shy of the maximum the law allows for her crime, stating that he did so because she spared the jury an afternoon of court by permitting him to assess her punishment. When Lockhart announced her sentence, he made it clear he didn't believe Annette Harris needed the wheelchair she used Wednesday or that she suffers from a mental illness that would excuse her bizarre antics.

"You've been six times in front of me, and there have been no signs of mental illness. No signs of any handicap," Lockhart said. "Those two conditions only surface when you're going to be arrested. You're not a very good thief, and you're an even worse actress."

llarowe@texarkanagazette.com

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