- Associated Press - Saturday, January 16, 2016

TRINIDAD, Texas (AP) - An East Texas man’s 15-year self-imposed standoff in an assault case has ended, but he has vowed not to leave his ranch in a nearly $35,000 back taxes dispute.

John Joe Gray recently learned Anderson County dropped a 1999 felony assault charge against him, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (https://bit.ly/1U2qJq2) reports. Gray, 66, was accused of biting a Texas trooper during a traffic stop, then jumping bail after his arrest.

Gray and his family since 2000 lived in isolation, growing their own food using solar power and relying on a shortwave radio. They now have a cellphone.

Gray faces a Jan. 31 deadline to begin paying the taxes - he’s 12 years behind. Gray said Thursday that he’ll take up arms if officials try to seize his 47-acre ranch near Trinidad, about 60 miles southeast of Dallas.

“There will be a standoff,” Gray said.

Henderson County Sheriff Ray Nutt, a former Texas Ranger who let Gray confine himself to avoid endangering deputies or Gray’s wife and now-grown children, said Friday he told Gray to ask for help “before something happens.”

The sheriff encouraged Gray to accept donations to pay the taxes, the landowner said.

“I don’t want us to get back in the same situation,” Nutt said: “We won’t unless we get an order from the court.”

Nutt said he does not know of any agency seeking Gray. “His criminal problems are over as far as I know,” the sheriff said.

At 66, Gray appears eligible for a legal delay, the newspaper reported. A Texas law passed in 1979 and simplified in 2003 allows homeowners with a senior-citizen exemption to put off paying taxes, including any owed, until the property is transferred or sold.

Gray has a homestead exemption but has never applied for a senior exemption or filed the paperwork to defer taxes, Henderson County tax assessor-collector Peggy Goodall said Friday. Gray would have to go to the appraisal district office to do so.


Information from: Fort Worth Star-Telegram, https://www.star-telegram.com

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