In Texas Courthouse, Attorney Tries to Smuggle in Pistol

HOUSTON (AP) - A Harris County defense attorney accused of carrying a gun into a courtroom told authorities he did not intend to cause any harm.

Dennis W. Richards, 57, told authorities he carried the gun because he was recently the victim of a crime and was feeling unsafe, said Lt. Bill Ruland, head of courthouse security for Harris County Constable Precinct 1.

Richards, arrested Thursday, was carrying a five-shot Derringer inside an empty pack of cigarettes, said Maj. Robert Van Pelt of the Harris County Sheriff's Office.

Authorities charged Richards with carrying a weapon inside a government building, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in a state jail. He was released from custody later Thursday after posting a $5,000 bond.

Richards, who was at the courthouse appearing on behalf of a client before County Criminal Court at Law Judge Michael Fields, did not go through the security checkpoint and metal detectors at the courthouse's public entrance. Richards, who frequents the courthouse, has a permit issued by Harris County officials allowing him to enter through a side door, Van Pelt said.

Richards did not brandish the weapon, but someone in the courtroom notified a bailiff about it and Richards was arrested, officials said.

Courthouse security has come under scrutiny recently. Four people, including a judge, were shot to death in Atlanta in March after a rape defendant overpowered a deputy and took her gun.

And the husband and mother of a federal judge in Chicago were shot to death at home in February. A man whose malpractice lawsuit had been rejected by the judge claimed in a suicide note that he was responsible.