State Rep. Ron Reynolds is out of hot water after barratry charges against him were dropped Wednesday following allegations of misconduct by a former Harris County district attorney's office investigator who headed up the case against him.
Reynolds, D-Missouri City, was arrested last year for barratry, which is also known as “ambulance chasing.” The term is used to describe attorneys who contact victims of an accident, often harassing them, to represent them in court and turn a profit. Reynolds was charged after an undercover investigation by the Harris County district attorney's office concluded that a chiropractic firm was persuading patients to sign contracts allowing the lawmaker to represent them before the patients even had medical exams.
The case had still not reached a grand jury trial when a scandal involving Lonnie Blevins, a former investigator who is facing federal charges for allegedly selling comic books collected as evidence in a fraud investigation, led the district attorney's office to drop the charges against Reynolds and others whose cases Blevins investigated.
Sara Kinney, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office, said Blevins was the primary investigator on the Reynolds case, and that the relevant evidence in the case was "entirely credited" to Blevins. She said the district attorney's office was not comfortable pursuing a case in which crucial evidence was submitted by a source who lacked credibility.
“Our goal is to use this as an opportunity to restore integrity and show the public just how serious we are about cleaning [the district attorney's office] up,” Kinney said.
She declined to give specifics about evidence discredited in the case because of concerns that it might affect other investigations of cases in which Blevins was involved. About 125 other cases need to be evaluated and 50 are currently being reviewed with a "fine-toothed comb," she said.
A law passed during the 2011 legislative session allows barratry victims who have been unlawfully solicited to recover actual damages and fees. The law also allows a potential client to recover a civil penalty of $10,000 from any person who committed barratry but did not get a potential client to sign a contract.
Reynolds released a statement praising the district attorney’s office for dropping the charges.
"I want to thank District Attorney Mike Anderson for doing the right thing and dismissing my case," Reynolds said in the statement. "I said from day one that once the facts came out, justice would prevail and I would be vindicated of all charges."