A woman in a small Texas town is alleging that police who pulled her over for a traffic ticket coerced her into making undercover drug buys to avoid paying the traffic fine, and threatened to reveal her role when she tried to back out of the arrangement.
The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous because she fears retribution from dealers, was pulled over for making an illegal lane change in the town Friendswood on Aug. 22, her attorney Dane Johnson told ABC News.
The officer who pulled her over found a glass pipe and the prescription medication Suboxone, which Johnson says she has a prescription for. She was given tickets for an out of date registration and for not having proof of insurance with her, records show.
She was then arrested, taken to the police station and strip searched, her attorney alleges.
"The police seemed to think she was a drug dealer, and threatened to call Child Protective Services if she didn't cooperate," Johnson said. "This is a single mother with no criminal record, and they wouldn't let her call anyone to go look after her child for the four hours she was at the station."
While being held police offered her a deal: perform three controlled drug buys instead of paying the fines, the lawyer said. Her attorney told ABC News she had never bought drugs before, but agreed to do it to get out of the citations.
"I had two choices. They were either going to arrest me, or I could agree to do some controlled buys," she told ABC affiliate KTRK.
The Police Department wouldn't comment to ABC News on the story. County Manager Nick Haby said, "Because it is a pending criminal investigation it is our policy not to discuss it with the media at this time." He would not say what was under investigation.
County prosecutors in two adjoining counties said they were unaware of the case.
But the woman's lawyer provided copies of text messages to ABC News supporting her claim that she was made to make a drug buy and was threatened with having her role revealed when she became afraid to make any more purchases.
Text messages that appear to be between the woman and a Friendswood detective show the planning in advance of the drug deal.
"Call her if you can, if she's out, maybe she can meet with you," one alleged message from the detective reads. When asked for specifics about the plan, the detective allegedly replied, "my money, this afternoon. I'll call you. Don't set a solid time yet."
Before the woman met with the dealer, she asked the detective for reassurance.
"Can u plz text me nothing will happen to me? I'm really freaking out," she wrote.
"You're ok, don't worry," he responded, telling her they would meet somewhere safe after the deal goes through.
The woman bought $100 worth of meth on Aug. 23, the day after her traffic ticket, KTRK reports. Her attorney said officers were insistent she go through with the deal the evening of her arrest, but eventually agreed to wait until the next day.
"She was terrified. They sent her in with money, no support and no protection, to buy drugs at their request," Johnson told ABC News. "She saw a gun while she was there and feared for her life."
After the first of what was supposed to be three controlled drug purchases, the woman contacted an attorney, hoping to get out of the deal with the police department, Johnson said.
Several days later, she received a text message from the detective informing her she would need to write a letter to the police if she wanted to withdraw from the deal.
The message also warned her that if they filed charges against the drug dealer she bought from, she would be named in the affidavit as a source, revealing her as the person who "snitched" to the police.
The Chief of Police texted her attorney, telling him that by withdrawing from the deal, she "acknowledges that we may file a charge in the case of the controlled buy that she made and that she could be named in an arrest warrant."
In a phone conversation with Police Chief Bob Wieners, recorded by one of the woman's attorneys, the chief reiterated that "threat," KTRK reports.
"We can go ahead and just file a warrant, based on the one controlled buy that she did, and name her in the warrant," Wieners said, according to KTRK.
The detective said in his text message any charges would be decided by the Brazoria County District Attorney's office, but that DA's office told ABC News the arrest didn't happen in their jurisdiction.
The arrest happened in Galveston County, according to Johnson, but that DA's office told ABC they don't deal with traffic violations.
"Nobody in the legal community in our area knew anything about this so-called program the police department was running," Johnson told ABC. "We've never heard of anything like this before."
The woman's attorney said they are fighting the two traffic tickets, but have not yet decided whether to take legal action against the police department.