Under the Knife

After a long history of public drunkenness and allegations of slashing two men's throats, it is time to examine the troubled practice of Dr. John Hargett

Hargett, who was drinking with members of the Wysong family the night he allegedly attacked Kerry Recer, is clearly part of the city's elite. When he's not performing hand-shake rituals with the Masons, Hargett is socializing with police and prosecutors at the McKinney Country Club.

Besides fellow golfers Tom O'Connell, Collin County's district attorney, and O'Connell's investigator Rodney Neal, Sheriff Terry Box says he also periodically runs into Hargett on the green.

Box, who was a year behind Hargett at McKinney High School, says he was surprised by the April throat-slashing because Hargett had never before been in his jail.

Box also says he doesn't socialize with Hargett, but couldn't explain why the doctor wrote him a personal check for $320 on September 22, 1995. The check was listed in Hargett's bankruptcy filings, which stated that the money came out of Hargett's personal account for "living" expenses.

"That just blows my mind," Box says.

The atrium on the fourth floor of the Collin County Courthouse is filled with the high-pitched whirr of a distant buzz saw cutting wood just after 9 a.m. on Friday, August 23.

A tall, handsome teenager, who is dressed in a blue suit and a Looney Toons tie, is sweating bullets outside Courtroom 199. He sheepishly admits he's in trouble for some "teenage stuff." He evidently decided to drive a golf cart off a cliff after doing some drinking. "It was stupid. We were drunk and shit," he says.

Next to the boy, 48-year-old John Hargett leans with his back against the courtroom's outer wall. With his legs crossed casually, Hargett picks intently at his cuticles while he waits for his lawyer to return from the judge's chambers.

Hargett, who is at the court for an appearance on the attempted murder charge, hasn't been formally arraigned and hasn't made a plea, though records filed in connection with Kerry Recer's civil suit indicate that he likely will plead not guilty and argue that he slashed the trucker's throat in self-defense.

Dressed in a sharp blue suit, Hargett is slim for his 6-foot frame. His brown hair is freshly cut and neatly parted on the side. The dark circles under his eyes, which looked so menacing in the police mug shot that ran in the local paper, are still visible.

"I've been advised by my attorney not to have any contact with the press," Hargett says.

At this hearing, Judge John Roach decides to transfer the attempted murder case to another Collin County court, which will begin hearing cases for the first time in September. Hargett's next appearance is set for October 10, 1996.

When asked why the case is being transferred, Hargett shrugs and quickly offers his theory. "They don't want to have anything to do with this case," he says.

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