13 cell phones found in searches of Texas prisons

October 22, 2008 6:51:17 PM PDT
An intense shakedown of Texas' 155,000 prison inmates yielded 13 cell phones and 12 chargers in a growing scandal over prohibited telephones being smuggled in to inmates. Authorities Wednesday also charged a second relative of a death-row inmate with helping him obtain the cell phone that he used to make threatening calls to a state lawmaker.

Since the systemwide lockdown and search started Monday, officers also have seized at least one SIM card, a tool that transfers information from one cell phone to another, Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials said.

A phone and a charger were found in the ceiling of a shower area in the death row building at the Polunsky Unit outside Livingston, agency spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said.

The 111 prisons in the nation's second-largest corrections system were locked down Monday for contraband searches following the disclosure that death row inmate Richard Tabler used a smuggled cell phone to call a state senator and shared the phone with nine fellow inmates.

The 10 condemned prisoners made 2,800 calls in nearly a month. Tabler's mother was arrested Monday and jailed on suspicion of buying minutes for the phone.

His sister, Kristina Martinez, turned herself in Wednesday on a felony charge of providing a prohibited item to a corrections facility. She was released later on $10,000 bond. A woman who answered the phone at the bail bondsman's office in Killeen did not know whether Martinez had an attorney.

Richard Tabler was taken late Wednesday to a prison psychiatric facility because authorities thought he might be considering suicide. A ripped bedsheet was found attached to a fixture in his cell.

Lyons said searching the large prisons could take three weeks. The systemwide lockdown means inmates are confined to their cells and normal visits with relatives have been suspended. Employees and visitors are searched with hand-held metal detectors.

Tabler was sent to death row last year for two murders in 2004, and he had confessed but had not been tried for two other killings. All four victims had ties to a strip club in Killeen. He recently told his trial judge he wanted appeals waived so he could be executed.


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