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Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Stories Added - October 2009
Copyright 2009 - Polk Count
y Publishing Company

Mother, sister of death row inmate get probation for smuggling cell phone
Polk County Enterprise - October 2009

LIVINGSTON — The mother and sister of death-row inmate Richard Lee Tabler — who redefined “cell phone” by making hundreds of calls from death row — were sentenced to 10 years deferred adjudication for possession of a prohibited item in a correction facility in Judge Elizabeth Coker’s 258th District Court. Coker admonished the women for their roles in the incident that sparked a shakedown of all state prisons a year ago. The two women were very emotional during the hearing, according to officials. “You do not realize the amount of money you have cost the State of Texas just in the number of people who have worked on this case,” Coker said. Lorraine Tabler, 61, and Kristina Martinez, 36, received a sentence of 10 years deferred adjudication. Under that sentence, both women will remain on probation for 10 years and will have their record cleared of the charges if they do not commit new crimes in the meantime, officials said. The women were accused of buying minutes for the smuggled cell phone that Tabler used to make the calls. Tabler, 31, pleaded guilty late last month to contraband charges in the case and received a 10-year prison sentence, the maximum possible term. The new sentence was stacked atop his death sentence for two Killeen slayings in 2004.

Richard Tabler also convicted of an intimidation charge for threatening state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, the chairman of the Senate’s prisons committee. In a letter sent to prison investigators, Tabler threatened to kill Whitmire and an Austin American-Statesman reporter who broke the story about Tabler’s calls several weeks after he was busted in his cell with a phone. That triggered a massive lockdown of Texas’ entire state prison system for several weeks, during which time guards searched all cells and recovered dozens of cell phones and related gear, along with drugs, tobacco, weapons and other prohibited items. Additional security including searches and visitors and staff has since been added to try to stop the flow of contraband into state prisons, although a recent report showed that cell-phone confiscations have increased in the months since. Two months ago, prison officials learned that Tabler had smuggled out a second letter threatening Whitmire with assistance from a chaplain. They ordered 14 prisons — including the one where death row is located — locked down and searched for contraband in a new crackdown. Since Richard Tabler’s new sentence he has written letters to Judge Coker which were turned over to the Texas Rangers. Lorraine Tabler also faces deportation since she is not a U.S. citizen, officials added. Martinez was born in the U.S. Inmates at the Polunsky Unit have been prosecuted before for possessing SIM cards, so Tabler’s case is certainly not the first, Coker said. But his threats to Whitmire demonstrated the enormity of the problem.

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