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`Reverse sting’ lawman jailed awaiting sentence Pecos Former Presidio County Sheriff Richard D. “Rick” Thompson shuffled, hatless, into a jail cell this past month for the second time this year, as he awaited sentencing on drug trafficking charges. U.S. District Judge Jerry Buchmeyer of Dallas on April 2 reversed his own decision of early February that had allowed Thompson released on bond. The judge ordered the 45-year-old former lawman held in the Midland County Jail, where Thompson’s son, Alan, is a jailer. Thompson later was transferred a Pecos jail. Thompson’s 18-year reign as sheriff of the remote Big Bend county crumbled in the early morning hours of Dec. 4, 1991, when federal officers seized more than a ton of 93-percentpure cocaine stored in the sheriff’s horse trailer at the county fairgrounds. The cocaine had a potential street value estimated as much as $1 billion. Robert Chambers, 37, of Alpine and Candelaria, was quickly arrested on the testimony of an informant. Chambers, who has ties to other West Texas lawmen as well as alleged drug dealers, already was on probation for a felony federal firearms offense. At a bond reduction hearing on Dec. 9 a federal DEA agent revealed that the night and morning before his arrest Chambers had been in frequent communication with Thompson. Thompson refused to speak with federal agents in the week after the Dec. 4 bust, referring them to his attorney, Hal Upchurch of Monahans. Upchurch is a former Ward County district attorney indicted on state charges related to “reverse stings” in West Texas and several states. On the day following Chambers’ bond hearing, Thompson told reporters the cocaine was intended for a reverse sting, where law enforcement officers sell confiscated narcotics to suspected traffickers. He added that “cops and crooks ,are of the same caliber … the only difference is that cops carry badges.” Most area lawmen reacted to the statement with vocal outrage. The exception was “sting king” Midland Sheriff Gary Painter, a Thompson deputy in Presidio County from 1973 to 1978, whose own reverse stings have led to disputes with the Midland County Commissioners Court and the Texas Attorney General \(see “Have Badge, Will Travel,” TO On Jan. 9, 1992, Thompson and Chambers were indicted by a federal grand jury in Pecos on four counts of conspiracy to import nar cotics. The indictments carried potential sentences of life in prison and $4 million fines on each count. Thompson, legs shackled and hands cuffed, shuffled off to the Reeves County Jail under the glare of TV lights, to join Chambers. Two days later, on a Saturday, state 83rd District Judge Alex Gonzalez and a team of investigators and lawmen from the neighboring 112th Judicial District descended on Marfa. Gonzalez, acting on a petition from the Presidio County Judge and interim county attorney, removed Thompson from the office he held since 1973. Gonzalez appointed Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace Abe Gonzalez \(no relaBack in the federal court the following Monday, Jan. 13, more than 100 supporters packed the courtroom for Thompson’s bond hearing. When U.S. Magistrate Walter Holcombe ordered him held without bail, gasps and wails were audible. Thompson later pleaded guilty to one of the charges in a plea bargain a month later, and was released on $5,000 bond pending sentencing. Ordered to wear an electronic monitoring device, Thompson returned to his Marfa home and organized a letter-writing campaign. “We are asking our friends and family to help us in our attempt to persuade the judge hearing my case to consider probation,” read a letter dated Feb. 23. A lawsuit by the Dallas Morning News resulted in the early March release of the plea bargain over the objections of Midland Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Beery and Thompson’s new attorney, Barry Crutchfield of Lovington, N.M. The plea bargain showed that the U.S. Attorney had recommended the minimum sentence of 10 years and no fine in return for Thompson’s cooperation. No further indictments have been issued, although few West Texas observers believe Thompson and Chambers acted alone. The May 8 sentencing is expected to be “standing room only.” Jack McNamara Jack McNamara is publisher of the NIMBY News in Alpine. Continued from pg. 18 sacked by soldiers, its contents and many of Neruda’s personal papers pitched into a drainage ditch. As his coffin was carried through the streets, Teitelboim reports that the people spontaneously “sang ‘the Internationale’ with fists raised, caution to the wind.” Neruda’s funeral, says the biographer, was thus “the first demonstration to take place in Chile” against the coup. As Neruda had hoped, his name and his poetry pursued the cause of justice long after his own death. Continued from pg. 24 but a heavy-handed letter demanding that colleagues get on his bandwagon may have hurt his chances. Cain, a Dallas lawyer and House Transportation chair, is the most progressive of the field, but his relatively liberal voting record and big-city background will count against him as he seeks to build a coalition. V GIB WATCHING. If Speaker Gib Lewis wants appointment to the Parks and Wildlife Board when he leaves the Texas House of Representatives, he did not hurt has chances by helping out Gov. Ann Richards in the politically delicate task of deciding which of the 13 state schools for the mentally retarded should be shut down as part of the settlement of a longrunning lawsuit. When Richards marked the Fort Worth State School for closure instead of the Mexia State School which a task force had recommended, Lewis agreed with the decision to save Limestone County’s largest employer. As Dave McNeely of the Austin AmericanStatesman noted, Lewis grew up in Mexia and his mother still lives there. V VOTE SMART BY PHONE. Project Vote Smart, a national bipartisan voter education effort, has set up a toll-free “hotline” at 1800-786-6885, where voters can get information about candidates for President and Congress. Callers can get details on a candidate’s biography, campaign finances, voting records on key issues, evaluations by special interest groups and positions in 20 issue areas as well as county elebtion information. To get a printout of the information, at a cost of $3, dial 1-900-7866885. Reporters also may call 503-737-4000 for additional information on candidates and issues and to order a Reporter’s Source Book listing advocacy groups, think tanks and academic experts in various political fields. Continued from pg. 20 Davis; he also is a past editor of Texas Monthly magazine. Galveston is missing a list of sources, but Cartwright’s informal roll of credits in the author’s notes includes a fairly extensive list of the primary sources he interviewed. Their contributions are obvious throughout the book. While doing his research, Cartwright lived on the island, ploughing through the Rosenberg Library’s archives as well as newspaper and magazine archives. Cartwright apparently cross-indexed an eclectic variety of related books. From reports on the commission style of city government that Galveston made popular to memoirs of island leaders such as I.H. Kempner to studies of coastal weather patterns, all facets touching island life and history are presented. Cartwright also connects Galveston’s history to the history of the state and our nation. The work’s only egregious flaw is that it desperately needs maps, both historic and current. Why neither Cartwright nor his publisher thought to include such essentials is a puzzle. OURNAL 22 APRIL 24, 1992