Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

"A Blatant Lie": Texas Prosecutor Rod Ponton Responds to Reason

On October 21, 2014 Reason.com published "Sex, Spice, and Small-Town Justice: The Purple Zone Raid," my article and video that showed how "a rogue prosecutor makes the drug war personal." 

The next day, Rod Ponton, the prosecutor mentioned in the video and article, sent us the letter below, which he also posted as a comment on this Facebook post.

My response:

1. Rod Ponton is incorrect in stating that Ilana Lipsen pled guilty to three felonies. She pled guilty to one felony, which received a deferred adjudication, while the other two felony charges were dropped. 

The language in her plea papers stating that the plea is "free and voluntary" is boilerplate. The question of whether Lipsen felt she had any choice other than to take a plea deal is one the article leaves up to interpretation. Previous plea deals offered to Ms. Lipsen all included multiple years in jail. A deferred adjudication, where the prosecutor gets to claim a victory but the defendant avoids prison and the charges against her mother were dropped, is likely the best deal she was ever going to get without incurring more financially crippling legal fees.

2. According to documents provided to me by Ponton himself, the three substances deemed chemical analogues of controlled substances were seized from The Purple Zone in 2012. According to the reporting of Scot Briggs in the Alpine Avalanche and confirmed by Lipsen's lawyer, these only became illegal in Texas once they were banned federally by the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act, which was signed into law by President Obama in July 2012, but not in effect until January 2013.

As Briggs reported:

Reading the list of substances listed under Penalty Group 2-A of the Texas Health and Safety Code is a little like trying to decipher the ingredients in a Twinkie—ethylamine, phencyclidine, ibogaine, methylenedioxy amphetamine—but the three chemicals listed on the search warrant, MAM-2201, XLR-11, or UR-144 are not there by name. These chemicals did not become controlled substances until President Obama signed the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act (SDAPA) in July 2012.

The first time the Purple Zone was searched and samples seized was on March 23, 2012, before these substances were controlled.

The only way Ponton can justify the statement "these drugs are illegal under Texas law in effect at the time of the searches" is by declaring the substances illegal per the Controlled Substance Analogue Enforcement Act of 1986. A major portion of the article described the problematic nature of this law, and how its subjectivity leads to people being prosecuted for possessing products they believe to be legal.

3. Ponton is correct to point out that he was not the district attorney in 2012, though nowhere in the article did I state that he was. It is worth noting that despite being raided and arrested in 2012, Lipsen was not indicted until Ponton took office in January 2013. Indeed, she was one of the first people indicted after he took office

4. Ponton is correct that the May 2014 "Purple Zone raid" was a federal effort and Ponton did not file any charges against Lipsen as a result of this raid. However, members of local law enforcement, including the Alpine Police Department and Brewster County Sheriff's Office, participated in the raid.

Most crucially, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) used a Brewster County search warrant, ordered by Ponton, as justification for searching The Purple Zone. 

5. See my rebuttal to the second point. 

6. Reason TV presented Lipsen's characterization of anti-Semitic abuse by some in the town of Alpine as her own words and cited other sources who attested to the unpopularity of Ilana Lipsen and her store among a significant portion of the town's populace.

7. Factually, Lipsen has not been found guilty. She entered a guilty plea as part of a deferred adjudication, which means that she has been convicted of no crime and will remain so provided she satisfactorily completes a probationary period. 

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    Ponton = Pwned

  • Hillary's Clitdong||

    Shitstains gonna shitstain.

  • Drake||

    You may want to avoid Texas for a while. This guy sounds thin-skinned and spiteful.

  • sarcasmic||

    For sure.

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    Done and done.

  • Faceless Commenter||

    My Texas relatives can come visit me this time.

    And what's with a prosecutor who can't spell "pled"?

  • wwhorton||

    Prosecutors are mid-level state government bureaucrats with bar licenses. This should tell you everything you need to know.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    I thought that point was made in the first article.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    That's gonna sting in the morning.

  • Paul.||

    But it burns right now!

  • Warty||

    This seems appropriate. Not one o' you dope pushers is gon' get away.

  • Ghetto Slovak Goatherder||

    Owned.

  • ||

    Typical prosecutorial behaviour. Egoistic, narcissistic, poorly-written, authoritarian, and false.

    Asshole.

  • ||

    My sentiment exactly. I'd add deceitful, disgraceful and a thug.

    Ponton is rogue.

    http://bit.ly/1pVOFfc

  • RBS||

    Sort of on topic (but not really)...

    Sometimes I get random referrals from places like Lawyers.com. I just received this one:

    I got charged with domestic violence with high aggravated nature which is a miss understanding. The cdv is correct but the rest is not.
  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    How much is in his bank account?

  • Heroic Mulatto||

  • ||

    "She freely plead guilty, with no pressure or threats at all! Sure, we said we were going to put her in prison for years if we got the chance, but that's not pressuring anybody."

  • Marshall Gill||

    "Well, Ma'am, there was a lack of evidence so we are going to drop all charges and release you"

    "In that case, I would like to plead guilty to a felony"?

    What an absurd lie.

  • Notorious G.K.C.||

    The surest sign that he's full of shit - the "she voluntarily pled guilty" line.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Come on now. I'm sure no overcharging or threat of imposing the trial tax ever happened with regard to Ms. Lipsen's case.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Wow, this is weird. Earlier today, I had the song title, "Papal Reign" pop in my head--obviously, sung to the tune, "Purple Rain." Now we have "Purple Raid." Pity I'm too busy to work out the lyrics.

  • Paul.||

    Sung by Rod Ponton and the Pontonettes?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Yes. How did you know?

  • sasob||

    Shouldn't that be Rodney Poontang and the Poontangettes?

  • Riven||

    I prefer chocolate rain.

  • Andrew S.||

    Superb takedown of his excuses, Mr. Fisher.

    The sad thing is that no matter what's the truth, he, and his defenders, and the police, will always believe they're 100% in the right.

  • Bill Dalasio||

    Rod Ponton explaining his role in the matter...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFvujknrBuE

  • BiMonSciFiCon||

    I don't know how it would be done, but we need to figure out a way to get rid of immunity and to have a separate, uninterested body at the state or local level that would have the authority to sanction or fire misbehaving cops and prosecutors. This IA garbage will never fly, and fellow prosecutors and judges will never do anything about their prosecutor brothers (aren't most judges former prosecutors?). The justice system in this country disgusts me.

    Another thought would be to impose fiduciary duties on prosecutors. Voluntarily withhold evidence? Major fines or jail time. Continue a prosecution against a defendant you know to be innocent? Lot's of jail time. Etc.

  • Warty||

    Some sort of committee of public safety, maybe? Sounds like a good idea to me.

  • Mainer2||

    Has that ever been tried ?

  • BiMonSciFiCon||

    I was thinking along the lines of a civilian review board, but with real teeth. Strike the stuff about jail time. I do think prosecutors and cops do deserve jail time in many cases, but it should be pursuant to the criminal justice system, as flawed as it may be.

    (Though some might deserve the "justice" delivered by such a committee.)

  • sarcasmic||

    They should have to serve the maximum sentence that would have been imposed upon the defendant.

  • The artist known Dunphy||

    Exactly the sort of bigoted double standard one would expect from somebody like you still butthurt over being convicted for a crime they admitted to have committed

    Fortunately the public supports the police and the legal system has set up a reasonable system of qualified immunity that works very well in giving cops due process and protecting them from malicious prosecutions and yet holding them properly accountable for criminal behavior

    On the other hand prosecutors and judges have absolute immunity and I personally think that absolute immunity is too strong a protection others may disagree

  • SimonJester||

    I --- read, and reread, this post, multiple times.

    I cannot figure out if you actually take seriously what you just said, particularly the "Public supports the police" and "the legal system has set up a reasonable system of qualified immunity that works very well in giving cops due process..."

    And, by the way, if you do believe it, head into Furgeson, please, without your weapons and armor, and hold up a sign that says just that. See what people there think of your public support of the police and police immunity giving due process.

    Once I worked through and figured out what you are actually trying to say, I can't help but assume you are being sarcastic. Surely no right-minded individual would actually believe this. You are either being farsical or so entrenched in your own privilage that you can't see beyond your nose.

  • Sevo||

    "or so entrenched in your own privilage that you can't see beyond your nose."

    This.
    Assuming this is Dunphey, he buys that 'noble guys in blue' bullshit instead of the more honest 'society's janitors in uniform'

  • wwhorton||

    The Constitution bears all the reference to due process required. I fail to see how giving police additional rights with reduced culpability is anything other than a travesty of justice and the creation of a privileged legal class.

  • ||

    Only if by public you mean other cops. You are the public too, jackass, despite you and your fellow retards attempting to drive a wedge between yourselves and your employers by using a very pejorative "civilian" as a descriptor. As a veteran, I find it detestable that you chickenshits would try to place yourselves in the same light as the people who actually go into battle with people who are actually trying to kill them instead of drawing down and shooting 80 year old men pulling canes out of the beds of their pickup trucks or tossing flashbangs into children's cribs.

    Jesus, you assholes make me sick.

    Seriously, go fuck yourself. There, how's that for public support?

  • GamerFromJump||

    ^ + Over 9000

    I come from a family of vets. I share your disgust at the appropriation of language by people who have not only stopped protecting the citizenry and started terrorizing them, but directly state they have NO duty to protect.

  • Bgoptmst||

    Long term military.

    I often feel like any new policy should have to boarded by SNCO's drinking during happy hour. If it makes it through that process I dub the: "common sense beer test" it could then go forward.

  • Zeb||

    I'm sure there are flaws, but I have an idea that prosecutor and public defender should be one job where you spend half of your time doing each. And they would be rewarded only if they do well at both parts of the job.

  • Tech||

    Just repeal sovereign immunity (start at the state level...repeal 11th Am, etc) and let the lawyers happily do the rest.

    My only fear with an outcome like that is it would be a slippery slope in our direction. We might not like the end result.

  • Outside the Box||

    Good cthulhu, man, it's called "competition", and it cannot happen as long as the State claims monopoly power over jurisprudence. Stop trying to fix the problems of Statism with more Statism.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    In captiol cases, the prosecutor who comtinues against a defendent he knows to be innocent should be charged with conspiracy to commit murder.

  • trshmnster the terrible||

    Nice takedown, but you spelled deferred adjudication 3 different ways in your article: it's 1 f, 2 r's, and a bunch of e's, all crammed in a d sandwich.

  • Sevo||

    Ya know, it's quite insulting when some imbecile lies in such a transparent manner; as if you were stupid enough to swallow it.
    Anthony Fisher is due an apology from Ponton.

  • Mainer2||

    So some thin skinned bully is a prosecutor...dog bites man.

  • ATXChappy||

    "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky Lipsen."

  • burserker||

    that depends on what the definition of 'is' is

  • Fox||

    Lipsen claimed she was "involved sexually" with him (i.e., did not claim that they "had sex"), which he does not dispute; he claims that he did not have sex with her.

  • Raston Bot||

    drug warriors going to war.

  • Raston Bot||

    unfortunately, the judge may view this video as a violation of the terms of her plea agreement because FYTW.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Anything after a swat raid on a tiny business and you can talk to my middle finger fuckwad. That goes for the pigs that took part as well.

  • Agile Cyborg||

    Ugly little Democrat blows a load on two full sheet of paper.

  • ModeratarianMan||

    I dealt with assholes like this when I was in private practice. What a lying cocksucker! He, along with many other douche bag criminals under the color of law need some serious asskickings

  • AD-RtR/OS!||

    It seems that DA Ponton holds the Lillian Hellman Chair among TX DA's:
    Every word he says is a lie including 'and' and 'the'.
    It would seem that all he wanted to do was just to fuck her one last time;
    and he did, royally.

  • sasob||

    He probably wishes he was royalty, if he doesn't actually think he is. Hell, they all do.

  • The artist known Dunphy||

    Good article. under the ultimate point about deferred prosecution or deferred adjudication as to whether that is tantamount to guilt it is somewhat arguable either way and even legal references like legal dictionaries et cetera come to somewhat different conclusions on this aspect of the law

    It is common and entirely reasonable for a prosecutor to consider a deferred prosecution is a victory similar to a guilty plea since the person does have to admit guilt as part of that kind of plea and waive the same rights that a guilty person does

    On the other hand once a person completes the requirements of the agreement they customarily get an expungement which basically is the equivalent of saying the guilty plea never happened and even in questionnaires etc. they do not have to admit to a conviction since it typically does not count as one

  • The artist known Dunphy||

    Principles are one thing and it's clear that she admitted guilt etc. and on the other hand practicality is important and if you are risking some serious jail time and are offered a deal where you can avoid all jail time even if you consider yourself innocent it's understandable that somebody would plead guilty

    I've seen cops do the same thing and of course people here would instantly say it was proof of their guilt and not in this case but either way the same concepts apply

    Analog laws are difficult because retailers or drug users for that matter should not have to be experts in chemistry in order to figure out if the substance they are using or selling is regal under the analog laws

    Usually prosecutors or Police Department will send some sort of letter to smoke shops etc. when the law changes offering them a chance to dispose of the contraband

    Ultimately in my opinion neither side is entirely right or entirely wrong and much of how you interpret it and which You do agree with comes down to subjective things more so then objective things

    Either way it's an excellent article and proof that at least something that reason does has some real world effect

  • Andrew S.||

    You truly are a piece of shit Dunphy. I'm sure you know that, but I'm just repeating it. You take an article about a woman who's been screwed over by the legal system and use it to push your "cops are so wonderful!" spiel.

    You know why these people, who've done nothing wrong, end up having to plead guilty to bullshit charges? Because cops like you believe they have to justify their existence by arresting more people (and as a bonus they get to use their toys, since they're too chickenshit to use them against somebody who's actually dangerous).

  • MSimon||

    Regal chemicals? Yes!

  • John C. Randolph||

    she admitted guilt

    So did a bunch of the people in the GULAGs, asshole. So did a bunch of people on death row who have since been exonerated by DNA testing.

    You truly are a despicable piece of shit.

    -jcr

  • GamerFromJump||

    risking some serious jail time and are offered a deal where you can avoid all jail time even if you consider yourself innocent it's understandable that somebody would plead guilty

    Really, just consider what you had the gall to write right here. "Even if you're innocent, plead guilty to avoid retaliatory smashing".

    Did you import your sense of justice from Cardassia, or what?

  • Suicidy||

    Enobran Tain approves.

  • RockLibertyWarrior||

    Corrupt pigs should be shot. Same with their scum enablers in the DA office. Dunphy go fuck yourself, totalitarian asshole.

  • ||

    I see sex is involved.

    Just saying.

  • lucilleesmith||

    my co-worker's mother-in-law makes $84 /hr on the internet . She has been without work for eight months but last month her paycheck was $21951 just working on the internet for a few hours. check out the post right here....
    ➜➜➜➜➜➜➜➜ www.paygazette.com

  • SimonJester||

    paygazette.com,

    $21, 951 at $84/hour is 261.3 hours. Over a 4 week period, that is

  • bassjoe||

    Are you telling me you don't work 65 hours/week? Slacker.

  • Suicidy||

    Yes, doing anal can be quite profitable.

  • John C. Randolph||

    So, the persecutor is lying about his illegal harassment of an innocent defendant. Typical.

    -jcr

  • bassjoe||

    Come on, man, messing with a small town DA. HAVE YOU NO SHAME?!?!?

    (Please, keep on doing it.)

  • Suicidy||

    Based on the lab results for 'spice', I brpelive the defendant is caught in shiwer struggle between House Atreudes and House Harkkonnen.

  • Suicidy||

    Goddammit the comments section needs an 'edit' feature.

  • RJ The Terrible||

    ^ THIS ^

  • Johnimo||

    Sorry, Rod …. her story has the ring of truth and yours does not.

  • ||

    He has a facebook account: https://www.facebook.com/rodponton

  • Brian D||

    That's only an 80.5 hour work week. Tell that bitch to stop being so lazy.

  • TxJack 112||

    You are splitting hairs here. Claim that she is not a convicted felon because she accepted deferred adjudication is crap. What she accept was to be punished for committing a crime and in return, the conviction will not appear on her record. She still broke the law. Seems the intent of the article is attack the DA and police while pretending the criminal in the case has somehow bee railroaded. Sounds alot like something progressives would be arguing, not libertarians.

  • NYLawyer||

    The weakest part of this is the idea that a guilty plea is not a guilty plea. "Factually, Lipsen has not been found guilty. She entered a guilty plea as part of a deferred adjudication" -- the second sentence means that actually she has been found guilty, factually.

  • sasob||

    Pleading guilt is the same as being found or judged guilty? Is that sorta like signing a written statement to the effect that one has not been pressured to sign said statement somehow magically makes it true? Words have magic powers? (sniff) I think I smell a damned Liberal/Progressive.

  • Andrew S.||

    I see friends and colleagues of Mr. Ponton decided to get their words in after the thread was dead.

    Fuck off.

  • Hulk body steroids||

    I agree with your conclusions and will eagerly look forward to your incoming updates. Just saying thanks will not just be adequate, for the wonderful clarity in your writing.It is imperative that we read blog post very carefully.

  • Cbalducc||

    Does Ms. Lipsen have a case that her civil rights were violated?

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online