An investigation showed he delivered cans of tobacco sandwiched between the buns of fast food hamburgers in his lunch box, according to the sheriff’s office.
TYLER, Texas — Editor’s Note: This video is from June 2020.
The trial for a former Smith County jailer accused of smuggling chewing tobacco, a phone and tools into the jail for inmates in 2020 is set to be held this May.
Lance Watson, 61, of Tyler, is charged with engaging in organized crime and prohibited substance in a correctional facility.
Watson was originally arrested for having a prohibited substance within a correctional facility on March 5, 2020. An investigation showed he delivered cans of tobacco sandwiched between the buns of fast food hamburgers in his lunch box, according to the sheriff’s office.
During a pre-trial hearing Tuesday, 114th District Court Judge Austin Reeve Jackson set a trial date for May 9.
Officials found tins of tobacco and peanut butter jars with a tube of razor blades inside jail cells. There were also security tools that were used to remove screws from an intercom. The opening was then used to move contraband into the jail cell, Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith said.
Two months after his arrest, Watson was then charged with organized crime along with eight state and federal inmates housed in the Smith County Jail.
Watson had been at the jail for a year as a detention officer before his arrest. He was previously a detention officer at a facility in Brown County, Smith said.
“He was pretty much a model employee, but that’s what you’d expect. Somebody that’s going to be doing things like this, they don’t want any red flags out there,” Smith said at the time of Watson’s first arrest.
In March, Smith said the evidence is leading toward the possibility of being related to drug transactions both inside and outside the jail. Investigators also found what they believe to be a drug transaction ledger.
Watson has been in the Gregg County Jail since May 26, 2020, according to jail records.
Two of the inmates who were arrested, Cayman Marshall and Cody Wallace, had their charges dismissed. Both were previously charged with possession of prohibited substance in a correctional facility.
Inmate James Brunelle was arrested for organized crime in May 2020, according to the sheriff’s office, but online records show he has not been indicted, or formally charged.
Jose Medrano-Clarke, Angel Torres-Caicedo, Joshua Bates, Alex Arnold, Tommy Allen were all indicted for organized crime in May 2020.
Bates and Arnold entered guilty pleas in court, and Bates received eight years in prison while Arnold got 10 years’ probation, according to judicial records.
No hearing or trial date has been set for Medrano-Clarke or Torres-Caicedo. Allen has a trial scheduled for Jan. 24 in the 114th District Court, records show.
In another case, Allen was sentenced to 12 years in prison in February 2020 after pleading guilty to two counts of intoxication manslaughter with a vehicle.
Allen struck a motorcyclist, Michael Anthony Gonzalez, 26, with his truck in January 2019 while they were both traveling south at the intersection of South Broadway Ave. and East Amherst Drive. Allen’s truck then hit an electrical pole before catching fire.
Gonzalez was taken to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.