Texas Judge Trades Leniency for "Donations"
Persons caught in South Texas with prescription drugs may get the opportunity to make a "donation" rather than face felony charges, if their case is handled by District Attorney Lynn Ellison. Ellison, District Attorney for the counties of Frio, La Salle, and Chambers (TX), sometimes offers a defendant the chance to make a "donation" to the county drug task force rather than face a felony conviction, and a fine between $2,500 and $10,000 (Associated Press, "Report: D.A. drops charges for drug task donations," Houston Chronicle, June 9, 1997, p. 17A).
Possession of Mexican-purchased prescription medicine is a second-degree felony under Texas law, but many still go to Mexico to buy the drugs because the are much less expensive (See "Study Finds Controlled Substances Make Up Most of Drug Declaration at Mexico Border," NewsBriefs, Summer 1996). Ellison allows some of those caught by police to exchange the charges for a donation of up to $2,500 to the 81st Judicial District Drug Task Force. "If they don't want to do it, we just go ahead and prosecute. There is no hard sell," Ellison said.
Attorney John Bull, a criminal defense lawyer, disagrees with Ellison's practice, calling it discriminatory. "Most defendants charged with having Mexican prescription drugs are Anglo," Bull said. "No one is making these deals to my poor Hispanic clients charged with other kinds of drugs."