Editor: Shannon Cottongame
March 9, 2022
A Hill County District Court jury found Reginald Harris guilty of aggravated assault of a public servant and then delivered a 30-year prison sentence late Wednesday evening, February 23.
Harris, a 44-year-old Terrell man, had been in the Hill County jail for possession of cocaine for roughly four hours when a jailer attempted to complete booking paperwork with him. District Attorney Mark Pratt said that Harris grabbed a wooden table that was holding a printer and broke a leg off, smashed three monitor screens and headed toward the jailer.
The jailer called for help, and another jailer, Chris Gonzales, quickly entered the area through a door and was immediately struck in the head by Harris, falling backwards into a locked hallway as the door closed behind the two men.
Pratt said that Harris then struck Gonzales in the head again, causing a large laceration and bleeding, and picked up the jail keys that had fallen to the floor before the jailer could grab a weapon. A struggle for the table leg ensued for about a minute until assistance arrived to help subdue Harris. Gonzales’s head injuries required 19 staples.
The defense claimed that the defendant had mental issues and should have been taken to a hospital for evaluation in the first place, rather than to the jail.
Pratt, who prosecuted the case for the State of Texas, pointed out that the defendant was evaluated by a psychologist and that there were no overriding medical or psychological issues that absolved him of responsibility for his actions. He pointed out that Harris was a licensed CDL operator driving an 18 wheeler at the time of his arrest for the cocaine and his erratic behavior.
The defendant was represented by attorneys Leon Haley of Fort Worth and Christine Cane of Dallas. They argued that the defendant’s mental condition and the actions of deputies arresting him and a jailer letting him out of his cell should result in a not guilty verdict.
After he was found guilty, they argued that the fact that the defendant had no prior convictions should result in a sentence of probation, which the law allowed.
Pratt argued that the calculated viciousness and brutality of the attack could easily have resulted in the death of the jailer and a capital murder charge for the defendant, but for the heroic actions of Gonzales, and that a lengthy prison sentence was appropriate.
The jury deliberated for over an hour before deciding on 30 years in prison, with a deadly weapon finding that dramatically increases the amount of time in prison that must be served before being considered for parole.
Pratt thanked the jury for stepping up and serving their fellow citizens, adding that he was very proud of how Gonzales handled himself in an extraordinarily violent and dangerous situation in such a heroic manner, continuing to battle and preventing the inmate from escaping despite his own severe injuries.