AUSTIN — A Texas death row inmate and two relatives have been indicted and accused of smuggling cell phones into a prison, leading to a statewide lockdown.
Special Prosecutions Chief Gina DeBottis told the Austin American-Statesman newspaper that Richard Lee Tabler, 30; his mother, Lorraine Tabler, and his sister Kristina Martinez, 36, were indicted Friday on charges of possessing contraband in a state prison. The third-degree felony carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.
Authorities accuse Lorraine Tabler and Martinez of paying for minutes on a cell phone that had been smuggled to their condemned relative. The minutes are a “component” of a cell phone that is illegal in a prison, prosecutors said.
Martinez didn’t return a phone call seeking comment. Information on attorneys for Tabler and his mother wasn’t immediately available.
A second inmate, Michael Roy Toney, 43, was indicted on similar charges.
Toney was on death row at the time of the investigation but has since been granted a new trial.
Toney was convicted in a Thanksgiving Day 1985 bombing in Fort Worth that killed three people.
A former guard and two Polunsky Unit inmates were also indicted for bribery amid allegations they paid the guard more than $1,100 over a few months to smuggle tobacco into the facility.
A Polk County grand jury also indicted Richard Tabler on a felony retaliation charge. He's accused of threatening to kill state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston. Officials said Tabler sent a letter to Whitmire.
Tabler’s alleged use of a cell phone from death row sparked the statewide prison sweep, which led to the confiscation of hundreds of banned items, including cell phones and weapons.
The probe was tied to reports accusing Tabler of calling Whitmire and saying he knew the lawmaker’s daughter’s name. Whitmire is chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, which oversees prison operations. He reported the calls to authorities.
Tabler was convicted of shooting a strip club manager and another man in Killeen in 2004. His execution date has not been set.http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/6404012.html