Criminal Justice

Houston attorney accused of smuggling over 150 drug-laced papers into the Harris County Jail

Authorities say 77-year-old defense attorney Ronald Lewis allegedly delivered papers laced with ecstasy and synthetic marijuana to incarcerated people during multiple in-person visits at the Harris County Jail. Lewis was arrested last Friday. 

During a press conference on Nov. 20, 2023, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez spoke about the arrest of Ronald Lewis, a Houston attorney who allegedly smuggling drug-laced papers into the Harris County Jail.
Lucio Vasquez / Houston Public Media
During a press conference on Nov. 20, 2023, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez spoke about the arrest of Ronald Lewis, a Houston attorney who allegedly smuggling drug-laced papers into the Harris County Jail.

A Houston attorney has been arrested and charged for allegedly passing along drug-laced paperwork to inmates at the Harris County Jail, county officials said.

Authorities say 77-year-old defense attorney Ronald Lewis allegedly paid up to $500 to deliver papers laced with ecstasy and synthetic marijuana to incarcerated people during multiple in-person visits at the jail. He was arrested last Friday and charged with having a prohibited substance in a correctional facility — a felony offense.

Lewis had allegedly delivered 154 sheets of drug-laced paper while visiting 14 people at the jail from July to November, according to Lt. Jay Wheeler with the sheriff’s office’s criminal investigations and security division, which was created earlier this year in response to an increase in drug overdoses within the jail.

During his arrest, Lewis had 11 sheets of paper that investigators believe to be laced with narcotics, Wheeler said.

“We’re currently working with the Texas Rangers to determine if any of the narcotics introduced in the jail by Mr. Lewis contributed to the death of any inmate,” Wheeler said during a press conference on Monday. “This is an ongoing investigation.”

So far this year, at least 19 people have died while in custody at the jail — three people died just last week.

During Monday’s press conference, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said investigators believe one of last week’s deaths was a result of exposure to narcotics. As of Tuesday, a number of this year’s autopsies were still pending, so the official cause of death for a majority of the people who’ve died this year has yet to be determined.

Over the course of 2022, at least four people died due to drug-related causes while in custody. In total, at least 27 people died while in custody last year — the highest number in nearly two decades, according to county records and data from the Texas Justice Initiative.

In an effort to reduce the amount of drugs entering the jail, Gonzalez said they’ve increased the number of drug dogs in the jail and have begun photocopying incoming mail and documents as part of “more thorough screening practices for all employees and visitors.”

“Anyone coming into our jail, whether it be one of our contractors, our own staff. Everyone is subject to more intense scrutiny,” Gonzalez said. “These dangerous narcotics are killing people and it needs to stop.”

Gonzalez added that investigators believe other attorneys may be smuggling drugs into the jail. Those investigations are still ongoing.

Courtesy of the Harris County Sheriff's Office
Security footage shows defense attorney Ronald Lewis inside the Harris County Jail. Lewis is accused of smuggling drug-laced papers into the facility.