Attorney says Harris County officers stole evidence in his client's drug case

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Two Harris County Sheriff's Office deputies under investigation for possibly stealing evidence in a drug case.

The sheriff's office said they didn't know anything about this case. On Monday, we pushed them to look harder. They did, and now we have the evidence one attorney says where the deputies admit to it all.

Dashcam video from October 24 shows Harris County deputy Jose Torres making a stop. Rene Esquibel was in that SUV.

"The officer claimed that my client was driving erratically and almost caused an accident," said Mike Edwards, Equibel's attorney.

Torres gets out, questions Esquibel, places him in the back of the patrol car then starts to search the vehicle. Back up arrives.

"It appears from the video that certain items are being handled, that the car has become a crime scene," Edwards said.

The deputies find a wine tube in the trunk; inside they find marijuana. According to Torres' report, it was weighed and measured at 4.1 grams.

"Apparently the scale was located in the very back of the car," Edwards said.

Edwards said a digital scale was in his clients SUV. He said the deputies stole it during the search.

Edwards pointed out this a on the dash cam video, where deputy Torres is seen taking an object from the trunk then walking it to the passenger side.

Minutes later, Edwards says Torres seen possibly putting the digital scale in his pocket.

"After issuing some subpoenas, I found that the scale had never been turned into evidence," Edwards said.

Edward kept digging. He showed ABC-13 text messages he says were exchanged between the deputies after the traffic stop. One deputy stated, "You got a scale lol."

The response from Deputy Artemio Navarrette was, "I did."

In the meantime, Esquibel was booked on drug possession charges.

"It concerns me because I believe that the sheriff's office needs to make other defense attorneys aware that there may be cases that these officers are handling," Edwards said.

Edwards says the case against his client was dropped by prosecutors. He says tried to report deputies Torres and Navarrette to internal affairs but was turned away.

On Monday, The sheriff's office issued the following statement:

"It is important to note that Mr. Esquibel's attorney refused to have his client sign a sworn statement when bringing these allegations to our attention a couple of weeks ago."

Edwards disagrees.

"That is not true. Why would I bring my client with the purpose of filing an internal first complaint which would require a sworn statement if that was not our intent?" he said.

Both deputies are now being investigated; Edwards says the digital scale still has not been found or returned.

The sheriff's office said Edwards' client missed another chance to give a sworn statement Monday. Edwards said no appointment was made.

The sheriff's office said both deputies will remain on patrol until they find reason to take them off the streets.
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