HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — A local defense attorney found himself on the other side of the law after being arrested last weekend and charged with smuggling drugs into the Harris County Jail.
Ronald Lewis, 77, was charged with possession of a prohibited substance in a correctional facility. The crime is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Lewis was released after posting $15,000 bond.
Earlier this year, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez created an investigative division to find out what was happening at the jail after what he called a significant increase in drug overdoses. He said they have evidence that an attorney may have been providing sheets of paper containing ecstasy and synthetic marijuana to incarcerated people during in-person visits.
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Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said his team was ready when Lewis reported to the jail on Nov. 17. They arrested him and said they found several sheets of paper contaminated with a substance that is being tested to find out what it is.
“I want to thank our team for their phenomenal work, which continues. They will continue to follow the evidence wherever it leads because we are determined to stop the flow of these dangerous drugs into our prison,” Gonzalez said.
Authorities said the investigation revealed that Lewis had been smuggling papers containing drugs to inmates at Baker Street Jail for at least the past four months. They said the retired defense attorney smuggled in 154 pieces of laced paper and distributed them to 14 different inmates. He was arrested after four months of investigation.
Detectives said the inmates would pay Lewis between $250 and $500 for the papers containing drugs.
Gonzalez said he believes the prison’s drug problem runs deeper than Lewis’ actions.
“Even though this first major arrest involves a lawyer, we are not cynical or naive enough to think that this one arrest will solve our prison drug problem,” he said.
Investigators say at least two of the inmates died while the drugs were being smuggled into the prison. Gonzalez said the new division was created in part because prison medical staff were seeing “more and more people needing emergency treatment for what appeared to be life-threatening overdoses.”
KHOU 11 News legal analyst Carmen Roe said Lewis could face more serious problems depending on the autopsy results.
“When these autopsies come back, if they connect these two deaths, they will charge him with murder,” Roe said.
Lewis appeared in court Monday to face a judge, but he did not answer questions.
Here is the press conference given by Gonzalez on Monday:
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