Payson Mayor Ken Murphy's trial for disorderly conduct-fighting began Thursday with a parade of prosecution witnesses recounting the events of Friday, Aug. 16, 2002 at the Ox Bow Saloon.
The charge stemmed from a confrontation between the mayor and then Fire Marshal Jack Babb over Babb's decision to enforce capacity restrictions at the historic Main Street saloon during August Doin's, the largest of the town's two rodeos. According to Babb, the mayor "cussed him out" and was "yelling and screaming in my face."
In his opening remarks Harlan Green, Murphy's attorney, said that Babb was the only person on the scene who believed the Ox Bow was overcrowded and that the mayor was "just trying to get an answer from a town employee."
The highlight of the first day of the trial came late in the afternoon when the prosecution called Babb to the stand. Babb, who resigned his position with the town and is currently assistant fire chief and fire marshal in Show Low, told the court the incident began when Murphy showed up at the Ox Bow between 11:30 p.m. and midnight Friday. Instead of observing the restrictions imposed by Babb and waiting in line, Murphy entered the bar to "use the rest room."
Eventually Murphy exited the Ox Bow and began to "loudly berate" Babb, according to one witness, shuttle driver Steve LeMonier.
In his testimony Thursday, Babb described the mayor's demeanor as "very loud, very disruptive, very angry."
Babb said he was concerned for his safety.
"His presence, his approach caused me to be on guard because I might have to defend myself," Babb said.
Earlier in the day, Payson Police Lt. Don Engler disagreed with the testimony of Gila County Sheriff's Deputy Timothy Scott over an encounter Murphy had with Engler later that evening.
"It was obvious he was agitated, upset and angry," Engler testified.
While Scott said the conversation could be heard by others in the area, Engler said he didn't think so. During cross examination by Green, Engler reiterated his belief that nobody else heard the encounter.
Judge pro tem John Perlman recessed the trial for the day before Babb's testimony was completed. Gila County attorneys Bryan Chambers and Robert Standage told the Roundup Babb will be the prosecution's final witness.