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Utility Takes ‘Gunning’ Threat Seriously

HOUSTON (CN) - A Texan claimed he was "coming gunning" for utility workers after the company told him to stop interfering with its electric lines, the company claims in court.

CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric sued John Oszart and his wife Lisa Oszart in Harris County Court.

CenterPoint claims John Oszart interfered with its easement by threatening to shoot its workers, burning debris and building ponds under its power lines for a fish farm.

When it told him to stop interfering with its easement, Oszart delivered a threat: "'I ain't backing down dumbass. I'm coming gunning - specifically for you,'" the company says in its complaint.

CenterPoint says its easement on the Oszarts' land has been in Harris County's property records for more than 40 years.

The Oszarts bought the property in March 2012, "subject to 'any and all validly existing encumbrances, conditions, restrictions," CenterPoint says in the complaint.

"On or about October 18, 2012, CenterPoint's Service Area Manager, Mr. Carlton Porter, responded to a call regarding the installation of two security lights on the property," the complaint states.

"Upon arrival at the property, Mr. Porter observed two excavated pits, each approximately 20 to 30 feet in diameter, within CenterPoint's Easement and located directly under CenterPoint's 7,200 volt line serving a nearby subdivision.

"The excavated pits were full of debris, including cut trees. Mr. Oszart informed Mr. Porter of his intent to burn the debris and to then fill the excavated pits with water so that the pits could be used as part of a fish farm operation.

"Mr. Porter immediately instructed Mr. Oszart that burning the debris could cause the wires to melt, fall, cause a loss of power to a neighboring subdivision, and create a safety hazard.

"Mr. Porter further explained that defendants were prohibited from excavating and constructing ponds within CenterPoint's easement."

Then on Feb. 19, angry that CenterPoint would not move its power lines at its expense, Oszart again announced his plans to burn debris within its easement, the utility company says.

In response, CenterPoint's attorney sent Oszart a letter advising him not to burn anything under its lines, and demanding that he fill in the holes or pay to relocate its easement and power lines.

CenterPoint says John Oszart then escalated the conflict with ominous threats: "On March 12, 2013, defendants, through Mr. Oszart, responded to CenterPoint's counsel's March 6 , 2013 letter by leaving a voice message on Mr. Porter's telephone threatening: 'Yeah, since you think you're the baddest boy on the block, I think I'm gonna break you down. So get ready boy!'

"Oszart continued by threatening that if CenterPoint did not 'move the wires out of his way' he would make certain CenterPoint employees famous by 'spreading their faces' across TV and the news.

"Mr. Oszart concludes his message with the threat: 'I ain't backing down dumbass. I'm coming gunning-specifically for you.'" (Citations to exhibits omitted.)

CenterPoint says its workers were on the way to the property to mark the boundaries of its easement when it got word of Oszart's message, and it "immediately called all crews back, instructing them not to enter the property due to the safety concerns caused by Mr. Oszart's threat."

CenterPoint wants an injunction to stop the Oszarts from threatening its employees, and to prohibit the Oszarts from "any further excavation, construction or other work on (its) easement."

CenterPoint is represented by Pamela Hicks with Beirne, Maynard and Parsons in Houston.

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