- Texas lawyer Rod Ponton went viral on Tuesday for showing as a cute kitten throughout a Zoom courtroom listening to.
- As a county prosecutor in 2014, he oversaw a controversial raid on a smokehouse.
- The shop proprietor advised Insider that the raid occurred after breaking a private relationship with Ponton.
- Visit Insider’s Business section for more stories.
Texas lawyer Rod Ponton – who went viral Tuesday when he appeared as an cute kitten in a Zoom courtroom listening to – has a controversial file as a Texas County District Lawyer.
Ponton was a Brewster County District Lawyer from 2013-2016. He gained nationwide consideration in 2014 for a raid on The Purple Zone, a smokehouse in Alpine, Texas, following what the shop proprietor described as a sample of harassment.
In Could 2014, native and federal brokers raided the Purple Zone on the premise of a search warrant requested by Ponton. They arrested its proprietor, Ilana Lipsen, on fees associated to possession of unlawful artificial marijuana. She was briefly imprisoned. Her mom and sister had been additionally arrested.
In the long run, Lipsen pleaded responsible to first-degree felony fabrication and possession of a managed substance, although the substances in query – chemical compounds present in packages from a earlier raid, in 2012 – did not weren’t unlawful in Texas on the time. In return, different fees towards her mom and sister had been dropped.
Lipsen mentioned she believed the raid and its aftermath was the end result of a marketing campaign of focused harassment by regulation enforcement, led by Ponton.
“I by no means thought what occurred to me may truly occur to an American citizen,” Lipsen advised Insider. “I all the time thought the police had been there to guard and serve us.”
Reached by phone, Ponton mentioned the matter had been handled by the e book.
“The fees have been introduced by police and authorities,” Ponton mentioned. “The matter was dealt with in an expert method.”
Lipsen mentioned the 2 had a romantic affair earlier than the raid
Lipsen mentioned the raid adopted a prolonged interval of harassment by Ponton. She mentioned she had a short sexual relationship with the district lawyer when she was an equine science pupil at Sul Ross College within the early 2000s.
Lipsen explained the details of the relationship to Reason in 2014 and repeated them to Insider in interviews Tuesday and Wednesday. Three different Alpine residents advised an Insider reporter the connection was an open secret on the time.
“I heard about it earlier than I met Ilana,” Lipsen acquaintance Tom Cochran advised Insider on Wednesday. A 3rd supply mentioned the identical: “I knew her very nicely. I heard it from her earlier than the raid.”
After the tip, she told reason, Ponton generally walked slowly previous his home, “nearly as if he was stalking me.”
Lipsen, a rancher, additionally mentioned Ponton purchased horses for her and would typically use them as an excuse to look at her after the connection ended.
“I gave up on him as a result of he was scary. After which years later he sees a chance to fuck me,” she advised Insider.
She additionally mentioned she modified her title and moved to a different metropolis after the incident, partly to flee Ponton.
“I needed to actually reinvent myself,” she says. “He stalked me.”
Ponton has denied having a relationship with Lipsen.
“We by no means had a relationship. I by no means had intercourse together with her. That is all flawed,” he advised Insider on Tuesday. “No report was ever filed. Every little thing she mentioned was a lie.”
“Nobody took severely what she mentioned,” he added.
Lipsen was jailed after the raid. She was not allowed to put up a bond till she signed a letter retracting an outline of the occasions she gave to information retailers, as the Texas Observer previously reported. The letter additionally included an apology to DEA brokers, saying that they had a “respectable cause” to go looking his retailer.
Witnesses who posted photographs of the aftermath of the raid on social media mentioned Ponton intimidated them, making an attempt to get them to take away the footage.
“[Ponton] I personally threatened seven crimes if I didn’t delete the photographs I had taken in public as a journalist, ”Cochran advised Insider.
Lipsen mentioned the incident gave him “extreme PTSD.”
“To at the present time, I nonetheless really feel nervousness when a police officer involves my work,” she mentioned.
After shedding the District Lawyer’s major in 2018, Ponton continued to carry public workplace. In January, the Alpine city corridor fired him as a city lawyer, with one board member citing “a big insecurity” in him,
Ponton’s time as a kitten was short-lived
Ponton’s look as a innocent kitten on the listening to lasted solely a minute, Choose Roy Ferguson, the decide in command of the case advised Insider on Tuesday. He advised Ponton change the setting so he may take away the filter and seem as a human once more.
“I used to be (able to proceed),” Ponton told the show “Today”. “Meow meow meow.”
Ferguson advised Insider he posted the video to YouTube “for instructional functions” to symbolize “the unimaginable professionalism and dignity proven by all concerned” within the authorized occupation and “as an example the dedication of the group. authorized to the reason for justice “.
He mentioned he had identified Ponton for years and had posted the video on-line with out consulting him.
“I am glad I used to be in a position to assist folks giggle,” Ponton advised Insider.
In an interview with Motherboard, Ponton blamed his secretary.
“I used to be utilizing her laptop and for some cause she had this filter turned on,” he says. “I took it off and changed it with my face.”