ustxtxb_obs_1977_05_20_50_00017-00000_000.pdf

Page 14

by

County Attorney Kerry Knorpp Letter from the Panhandle After law school graduation, Knorpp was a corporation court prosecUtor here for two years and then joined’0’irtit staff as an assistant, leaving in 1973 with 3 Amarillo Unless it is the rare year when late winter showers keep the dust down and leave pasture slopes strewn with wildflowers come spring, not even the most loyal Panhandle plainsman could claim to enjoy his home country from February to mid-April. Wind and dry fields make such a devil’s brew of the elements that the year’s first tornado is awaited here with some eagerness as the signal of the end of the dust storm season. Outsiders who visited during the windy months should no longer wonder at the grim aspect of plainsmen. Dust stirred by fortyto eighty-mile-an-hour winds duned over tumbleweeds bunched against five-wire fencerows, darkened the middle of days and dimmed the light one reads by. At such times the nondepressed are psychologically suspect and mere civility should earn one an above-and beyond-the call-of duty medal. Babies born from November to mid-January are conceived here not in love but in desperation. Weather report done, it would lend not only some comfort to Amarillo imagemakers but some metaphorical symmetry to this letter if one could report that the legal and personal intrigues in the Potter County courthouse are merely the result of the emotionally abrasive season just past. But the truth is, they all began long ago \(Obs., are sure to last well beyond the nearly perfect weather we should have here through October. Two gut fighters The three most recent Potter County grand juries \(August, November and ney Tom Curtis, have stuck County Attorney Kerry Knorpp with nine indictments for bribery, perjury, jury tampering, theft and misappropriation of public funds. Opinon seems about evenly divided on whether Curtis would have taken out after Knorpp if it weren’t for the vitriolic vapors each leaves in the mind of the other, but whether Curtis’ motives were inspired by personal animosity, political expediency or a felt duty to prosecute apparent wrongdoing, Knorpp is in serious enough trouble that his best hope is the precarious one of repeatedly getting good juries. bad feelings all around. Knorpp was not reluctant to talk about how he would one day “expose Tom Curtis for what he is,” so Curtis plainly would have been a little shortsighted if he had not regarded his former deputy as a political enemy. Both men are what the trade calls “gut fighters.” For Knorpp, the right place and the Buck Ramsey right time to throw down on Curtis came in May, 1974, with a special election for county attorney, a job Naomi Harney vacated to run for a county court-at-law judgeship. Knorpp seized the chance. As county attorney, he would prosecute in the same courthouse as Curtis, vie for the same public’s attention and answer to the same constituency and bookkeeper. Though a longtime Republican cast in the Young Americans for Freedom mold, Knorpp did the only politically smart thing and ran in the Democratic primary. His opponent was Dick Dambold, a popular young lawyer who had all the endorsements \(including an cial backing, and the election as close to C V T1 won as a pot can be when you are holding a royal flush. But everyone ignored the joker in the deck the tireless, low-budget, person-to-person campaigning of Knorpp and his wife, Shanny. Knorpp edged in a winner by fifteen votes. A long political season Since there would be no Republican opponent in the November general election, Knorpp was sworn in soon after the May primary. He began to endear himself to the Potter County public by taping his picture to cash registers all over Amarillo with the warning that this man will get you if you write a hot check and by winning long jail sentences for welfare mothers caught fudging on foodstamps. However, as with any newly elected official with campaign debts, one of his first priorities ,was the hustling of money to pay them off. Mike Musick, an early supporter of Knorpp, is a member of Gibson, Ochsner, Adkins, Harland & Hankins, the largest law firm in this part of the country. A. B. Hankins is Musick’s mentor and closest friend in the firm, and when Hankins was charged with DWI in December, 1974, he asked Musick to defend him. It was Hankin’s first such