Cleburne Democrat Bill Conover described his recent social media post as hyperbole. North Central Texas Progressive Democrats leader Kat Sanders called the post a death threat against her.
A judge on Aug. 7 in the 413th District Court ordered a permanent injunction against Conover but also ordered Sanders to “mutually respect the rights and privacy of [Conover].”
The order notes that Sanders also agreed to dismiss her claims against Conover of defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress with prejudice.
District Judge R.H. Wallace heard the case in place of 413th District Judge Bill Bosworth, since Conover is a local attorney who regularly appears before the judges at the Guinn Justice Center.
Sanders, in her original petition, claimed that Conover began “a campaign of harassment against” her in 2018 for unexplained reasons though possibly in connection with her stint as president of the Texas Democratic Women of Johnson County.
Sanders, who describes herself as a lifelong Democrat and “active party member” said she immediately became involved with the Johnson County Democratic Party and related organizations in 2015 upon moving to Johnson County. Sanders became president of TDWJC in 2016 but resigned soon after.
“I elected to resign as a result of the unfortunate discourse among the various party members and local Democratic groups,” Sanders said. “Unfounded allegations were made publicly and frequently that I had misappropriated funds belonging to the Johnson County Democratic Party. The JCDP immediately conducted an investigation upon receipt of these allegations and determined there was no fraud and that I had not misappropriated any funds. The treasurer of the JCDP issued a public notice of these findings.”
Sanders, in her petition, claimed that she received 12 calls from Conover on July 3, 2018, between 9:16-10:44 p.m.
“I answered the first call and spoke to Conover,” Sanders said. “Conover stated that he was at my front door and demanded that I come to the door to meet him. I was too afraid to answer the door, which resulted in the following 11 calls.”
Sanders petition includes a screenshot of her phone’s call list.
Sanders said that Conover, “without provocation,” when she was competing against candidate Tammie Hartgroves for the Senate District 22 committee position and that Conover in May posted a “terroristic threat calling for my destruction” on the Texas Democrats’ Facebook page.
“In particular, Conover closes his post with the statement, ‘She [Sanders] is evil and must be destroyed,’” Sanders said. “Such a statement places me in fear of imminent bodily injury or harm. Conover elected to exacerbate his harassment by generating additional posts on social media. On July 15, 2020, he posted on the Facebook page of SD 22 Texas Democrats the libelous statements that an issue had arisen with the JCDP regarding may alleged misappropriation of funds despite the publication by the JCDP that it found no evidence of fraud or impropriety by me.”
Conover denied Sanders’ allegations. Conover admitted to making the post, a copy of which is included in Sanders’ filing, and called the “evil and must be destroyed” line hyperbole.
“It was a throwaway line, from the movie ‘Steel Magnolias,’” Conover said.
Conover, in his post, wrote that local Democrats initially thought Sanders would be a great addition to the party when she first moved to Johnson County but soon grew disenchanted.
“Within months she’s decided that longtime Johnson County precinct chairs were incompetent and that our county chair, Linda Brown, was worthless,” Conover’s post reads.
In his post, Conover, referring to the race between Sanders and Hartgroves, writes that he plans to vote for Hartgroves for numerous reasons including his opinion that Sanders is a “big fat liar, back stabber, fraud and divisive.”
Wallace’s permanent injunction prohibits Conover from communicating with Sanders, coming within 500 feet of her home or from destroying any letters or digital communications referencing Sanders.
Conover said he subsequently took the Facebook post down and agreed to the permanent injunction on his attorney’s advice because Sanders agreed to drop her defamation and emotional distress claims — claims Conover still disputes — and to stop Sanders from threatening to sue other party members. Conover called Sanders a public figure and said his statements are true and therefore not defamatory. Attempts to reach Conover’s attorney for comment were unsuccessful.
Sanders said she intends to stay involved in local party politics.
“I hate that things had to come to this but this had been going on for some time,” Sanders said. “He stepped out of line again and because of that I was living in fear for three months afraid he might come over and do something stupid. The death threat he made against me spread throughout the state on other Facebook pages. In a situation like that you never know if someone who’s not of sound mind might see that and take action on their own.”