New warrant uncovers inner workings of drug smuggling into Harris County Jail

Brooke Taylor Image
Friday, November 24, 2023
New Harris County Jail drug smuggling allegations come to light
ABC13 obtained a search warrant showing the extent of the Harris County Jail drug smuggling investigation and alleging more people are involved.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- New allegations are coming to light amid the wide-ranging investigation into drug smuggling at the Harris County Jail.

The ABC13 newsroom obtained a search warrant Wednesday night showing the extent of the investigation. It reveals the Harris County Sheriff's Office is accusing another criminal defense attorney of handing out drugged papers to a client. She has not been charged yet, so ABC13 is not naming her.

"You work hard to go through law school and to take the bar exam," Murray Newman, president of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association, said. "It is something you literally are throwing away, not to mention, depending on how aggressively they charge these cases, you can be looking at a felony murder charge."

ABC13 reported earlier this week that 77-year-old attorney Ronald Lewis, seen on jail surveillance using a cane, was charged with providing inmates drug-laced papers since July.

ORIGINAL REPORT: Houston attorney charged for allegedly sneaking paperwork laced with drugs into Harris Co. Jail

He was arrested last Friday during a visit to the jail and found to have 11 sheets of paper believed to be soaked in drugs, according to Lt. J. Wheeler with the Harris County Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigations and Security Division. Wheeler added that those papers would be tested to confirm.

In July, authorities said they received information from sources in the jail that Lewis was bringing in papers soaked in K2, PCP, and "Spice" when he visited inmates. From July to November, he visited 14 inmates who were not his clients.

According to Assistant District Attorney Kimberly Smith, who is assigned to Lewis' case, inmates were selling them inside the jail, and others were smoking them. She said that makes it difficult to trace who took the drugs and where they originated from.

"We found that out through jail calls, through videos of attorneys coming to visit their clients and then passing papers on video to their client, something that they know well that they're not supposed to be doing," Smith said.

Last week, three inmates died within a matter of five days. Smith said they were all related to drug overdoses. The medical examiner has not decided on the causes of death. Still, if they are determined to have originated from Lewis, then Smith said his charges could be upgraded to murder.

The sheriff's office said it was investigating more lawyers smuggling drugs into the jail in a similar way.

According to the warrant, investigators were listening in on a call between current and former inmates, and it became apparent there was a drug pipeline going into the jail.

Investigators confronted the former inmate, who became an approved confidential informant, according to the documents. The informant told investigators the primary way drugs were getting inside the jail was through attorneys.

"They probably said, 'We got you on these phone calls, and you can help us,' and it looks like that former inmate did help them," Newman said. "That former inmate put them in touch with who the supplier was and also who the attorney they were allegedly using to get the drugs into the jail."

Brianna Scott is the woman accused of supplying the laced papers to the second attorney. Scott has been charged with conspiracy to deliver a simulated controlled substance and is out on a $40,000 bond. Scott purchased 30 drug-laced papers from an undercover deputy for $250 each, according to the warrant.

PREVIOUS REPORT: Numerous attorneys believed to be smuggling drugs into jail, Harris Co. Sheriff's Office says

The specific type of drug on the paper was not agreed upon, but the only request was to "make sure they are strong."

According to the warrant, the attorney would then smuggle drugs into the jail by setting up visits with inmates and then passing sheets of paper to clients through the document slot. Those slots have since been blocked off, and the sheriff's office is moving to digital.

However, the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association president said they are not on board with this new system, worried about documents being screened.

"We are very much against it because attorneys have a duty of confidentiality to our clients, and it is something that can cost us our law license if we don't protect it wholeheartedly," Newman said.

It does not appear this new case is connected to Lewis' case, but investigators continue to dig deeper into the drug-smuggling operation.

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