HOUSTON—The legal mess left after a couple of criminal investigators were charged with stealing evidence has prompted prosecutors to drop charges against three defendants, including a state lawmaker accused of illegally soliciting clients for his law business.
State Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Missouri City, was on the floor of the Texas Legislature when he heard that barratry charges had been dropped against him and his co-defendants, Bellaire chiropractor Tony Ha and a marketer named Adriene Anderson. The trio stood accused of illegally soliciting clients and patients involved in car wrecks.
The case against them had been developed with the help of Lonnie Blevins, one of the former investigators involved in the scandal. Blevins is accused of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of comic books from a defendant involved in an embezzlement case. Another investigator, Donnie Deutsch, worked on the same case.
“It’s tough,” said Sara Kinney, a spokesperson for the district’s attorney’s office. “We are taking a hit here in the public trust arena, but we are doing our best to make sure nothing like this happens again.”
Now a total of 50 criminal cases involving 125 defendants Blevins and Deutsch investigated are being reviewed. Legal experts say there’s no telling how many of the cases may be endangered or dismissed.
“Lonnie Blevins and this guy Dustin Deutsch are bad characters that are completely tainting a large number of the DA’s cases,” said Julian Laird, a defense attorney working on the Reynolds case.
Among the prosecutions now in limbo is the case against David and Sharon Watkins, charged with murder in connection with a 2003 fire they allegedly started at their house for insurance money. The fire claimed the lives of their 6-year-old daughter and a 16-year-old boy.
Sharon Watkins’ first trial ended in a hung jury, but David Watkins has yet to have his day in court. What happens next isn’t clear, because Blevins investigated their case.
Blevins was also involved in the prosecution of Jessica Tata, now serving an 80-year prison sentence for the deaths of four children who died in the day care center she operated. Legal experts say it’s possible Tata, as well as other convicts already serving prison sentences, may see their convictions overturned.
“If we didn’t learn the lesson in the O.J. Simpson case, we’re certainly going to learn it now,” said Gerald Treece, KHOU’s legal analyst. “The jurors look at the credibility of the witness dealing with physical evidence.”