By CHERIL VERNON
An Anderson County jury sentenced a Houston man to nine years in prison Wednesday for prohibited item or substance in a correctional facility after attempting to bring drugs into the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Beto Unit in 2011.
Tommy Thompson, 62, of Houston, was indicted on March 8 after an Oct. 22, 2011 incident where he and passenger Orelia Collins, 35, of Houston and Collins’ 12-year-old son attempted to visit inmates at the Beto Unit in Tennessee Colony.
“When they went into the prison unit, they were searched by security. Thompson went through fine with the boy, but when Collins went through, they uncovered something hidden under her buttocks,” said Allyson Mitchell, Anderson County assistant special prosecutor with the Special Prosecution Unit. “She panicked and tried to run, but they were able to subdue her. She consented to be searched further where they found a big amount of marijuana — around 100 grams — as well as 12 vials of PCP wrapped in electrical tape.”
Officials then asked Collins who she came to the prison with, leading them to use a drug dog to search Thompson’s Ford Focus.
“When they did a search on his vehicle, the dog alerted them to the trunk. Sgt. Robert Boyd, who was handling the search, found another package of marijuana exactly like the one they found on Collins underneath the lining of the trunk by the spare tire well,” Mitchell said.
According to Mitchell, in Texas an individual can only be arrested for prohibited item or substance in a correctional facility if they have knowledge of the possession.
“He knew the marijuana was in the vehicle. At the time, Mr. Thompson volunteered his version of how he thought (the drugs) came to be in the car. Unfortunately to him, he gave clues to show that he knew how the drugs were wrapped and where it was found on Ms. Collins, but no one told him that information,” Mitchell said.
During their attempted visit to the prison, Thompson was scheduled to visit relative Antonio Shepree, while Collins was scheduled to visit Shepree’s cellmate James Mask.
After about two hours, the jury found Thompson guilty of the charges.
“During the punishment phase, Thompson’s common-law wife testified he was a good man. I was able to tell her how many times he has been convicted from 1993 to 2009. He has had multiple convictions,” Mitchell said. “Because he has been to prison before on a felony, his charge was increased from third degree to second degree.”
The jury had a range of 2 to 20 years of punishment to select for Thompson — and Mitchell was pleased with the nine-year sentence.
“The reason the verdict is so significant is because he didn’t bring the drugs into the prison, he just had it in the parking lot,” Mithcell said. “The prisons have such a problem with drugs and cell phones contraband getting into the prison. This is a prime example and I hope the significant nine-year sentence gives people pause before they consider doing the same thing.”
87th Judicial District Judge Deborah Oakes Evans presided over the two-day trial.
Mitchell was assisted in the case by investigator Joe Willis.
“In prison, an inmate who has drugs uses what they have as leverage. It’s used as money and the prisoner is making tons of money,” Mitchell said. “The only way to stop this is to stop it from being introduced in the first place.”
Collins was indicted on March 8 along with Thompson for the same charge — prohibited item or substance in a correctional facility, however Collins has failed to appear in court and has a warrant for her arrest.
“When she’s caught, there will be a trial,” Mitchell said.