Epithets flew like slings and arrows as former state Sen. Gene Stipe and McAlester Web site operator Harold King faced each other in a Pittsburg County Courtroom.

Stipe, who testified in his own behalf, and King, who served as his own attorney, used words as their weapons during the courtroom showdown on Friday.

They were in court because Stipe asked for a protective order against King.

King objected to the protective order and contended he’s the one who needs protection from Stipe.

McIntosh County Associate District Judge Gene Mowery served as the judge for the hearing.

After several hours of courtroom testimony, he decided an emergency protective order telling King to stay away from Stipe will remain in place — for now.

King asked for clarification.

“What if I go to a public meeting and he’s there?”

“Stay away from him,” the judge said.

Mowery said he’ll issue a ruling later after he gets written briefs from both Stipe and King. He gave them 10 days to get the briefs to him.

During the hearing, Mowery ordered the two to quit arguing with each other several times.

The hottest exchanges came when King cross-examined Stipe after Stipe’s attorney, Tom Webb, completed his questioning.

At one point, King wanted to know what Stipe objected to about postings on King’s Web site, known as the McAlester Watercooler.

“What was wrong with the posting?” King said.

“They’re a damned lie!” Stipe roared from the witness chair. “You’ve got a twisted mind.”

“I don’t know why you’re doing it,” Stipe said. “You’re crazy.

“I haven’t done anything to you. I want you to leave me alone.”

As they both started to talk at the same time, Mowery told the two he wouldn’t allow them to argue in court.

That worked — for a little while.

“Have I personally come up and threatened you?” King asked.

“You came up and ‘bellied’ me,” Stipe said. “You put your belly in front of me.”

At one point in the hearing, Stipe realized he had been sitting with his back to King. He moved to the other side of the table.

“I’m afraid of him,” Stipe said.

At another point, King said the hearing for a protective order “is part of a continuing series of events to harass me.”

Witnesses for Stipe included Allen Cherry, who testified that King came to him during an executive session on the night of a McAlester City Council meeting on April 26. They both were among those waiting outside in some adjoining rooms on the second floor while the city council met behind closed doors.

Cherry, who said he’s a paid employee of Stipe’s, said King became upset that the state Department of Transportation had not taken down street signs with Stipe’s name after the city of McAlester changed the name of Gene Stipe Boulevard to Electric Avenue.

“They weren’t taking the signs down fast enough to please him,” Cherry said. “He leaned over to me and said ‘Gene and Francis Stipe better resign and leave town, because if they don’t, I’m going to send them home in a pine box.”

“That scared me to death,” Cherry said, adding that he heard “hatred and venom in (King’s) voice.”

King had a different version.

“I asked you to tell Gene and Francis to retire,” King said. “I told them if they kept doing what they were doing, I would get them prosecuted and put in jail.”

King asked Cherry if the phrase he used had been “time in a box” instead of in a pine box.

Cherry contended there had been no misunderstanding.

King later said what he meant was, if they didn’t retire, “I’ll keep coming after them to put them in jail.”

He said he meant he would keep trying “until they were six feet under.”

“That was not a physical threat.”

At one point during the hearing, King turned to the judge.

“Can I make a motion for a restraining order against Gene Stipe?”

Mowery apparently saw an opening for a civil ending to the dispute. While the law requires a specific procedure to be followed in filing for restraining orders, if King now wanted a restraining order against Stipe and Stipe wanted one against him, there might be a solution in sight.

“The statutes are very clear, if both parties agree to it,” Mowery said.

King said he had reason to be concerned about what Stipe might do to him. He also lambasted the testimony on Stipe’s behalf.

“I’ve seen nothing but an organized conspiracy of lies,” King said, as the chance for the parties agreeing to mutual restraining orders started to slip away.

King went on to say Stipe had no grounds to seek a restraining order against him.

“This is only the second time I’ve laid eyes on him,” King said.

King also said during the hearing he believed he received a threatening phone call from Stipe last July.

A portion of the testimony centered on altercation outside Marilyn’s Restaurant at the Highway Lodge last year.

Stipe said that showed King had been stalking him; King said he had gone there looking for Special Judge Bill Layden.

During testimony, Stipe said King had ran up to him and “bellied” him, while King contended Stipe had raised his fists and said he was ready to settle the matter right there.

Stipe’s brother, Francis Stipe, testified that King had approached his brother in a threatening way.

“He was loud and boisterous,” Francis Stipe said.

Another witness for Stipe, McAlester attorney Warren Gotcher, testified he once heard King say after a hearing “Somebody’s going to get Gene Stipe” or “I’m going to get Gene Stipe.”

Stipe said people have told him King had threatened him.

“I’ve had police call and offer me a gun and say he’s dangerous,” Stipe said. “Certainly, he has me concerned.”

At one point, Mowery appeared to be nearing the end of his patience.

“I’m going to give you a little leeway, but it’s getting thin,” Mowery said when King persisted along a line of questioning that had the judge concerned.

District 18 Judge Thomas Bartheld appointed Mowery to hear the case after Judge Bill Layden withdrew, citing the fact that he’s known Stipe for a number of years, but didn’t know King.

Afterwards, Stipe appeared pleased that an emergency protective order remained in place.

“He’s going to leave me alone; I hope he will,” Stipe said as he got on an elevator at the courthouse.

King, meanwhile, prepared to get in touch with an attorney to prepare the written brief requested by Mowery.

While he served as his own attorney for the hearing, he’s decided to get a lawyer to prepare the briefs, which typically cite case law when presented to judges.

“The problem I’m seeing is I’m going to have to hire a lawyer to defend me for what I feel is a proper action of any citizen,” King said.

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