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Inmate gets 30 years for possessing pot
by Gary Kent
Dec 17, 2010 | 2304 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A 29-year-old McConnell Unit prisoner serving 30 years for a 2005 murder conviction was sentenced to spend another 30 years behind bars early Wednesday afternoon.

“There’s nothing wrong with me,” Preston Mascorro told District Judge Ronald Yeager when the judge asked him if he had ever been confined to a mental institution and if he had any mental competency problems.

Mascorro sat in a chair at the time, his hands cuffed behind his back and a security brace on one leg. He was surrounded by several large correctional officers as he pleaded true to two prior felony convictions.

The convictions allowed the court to enhance the punishment range of his charge of possession of a controlled substance, marijuana, in a correctional facility from a maximum of 10 years in prison to 25-99 years or life.

Possession of a controlled substance in a correctional facility normally is a third degree felony, punishable by a prison term of up to 10 years and a $10,000 fine.

Earlier that morning, a seven-man, five-woman jury had found Mascorro guilty of the charge after deliberating Tuesday afternoon and part of Wednesday morning.

The jury had heard testimony from several witnesses during a trial that began Monday afternoon in Yeager’s court.

Mascorro was confined to a chair and surrounded by correctional officers because minutes earlier he had stood up in the courtroom and started protesting loudly. The protest came as his defense attorneys, Robert Bland and Miranda Meador, both of Huntsville, and prosecutor Mark Edwards discussed which previous felony convictions would be brought before the jury during the punishment phase of the trial.

Correctional officers who had been sitting immediately behind Mascorro quickly grabbed the defendant by the arms as his defense attorneys moved out of the way.

State investigator Jay Brionez rushed up to the defendant and convinced him to sit down.

The correctional officers, part of a large security contingent on duty inside the Bee County Courthouse during the trial, led Mascorro to another courtroom as attorneys discussed their options.

Eventually, the defense attorneys told Yeager they wanted to withdraw Mascorro’s right to have the jury assess his punishment and allow the judge to decide on what that should be.

When Mascorro was allowed back in court, the judge asked the defendant if he understood the procedures and if he was willingly accepting the release of the jury.

Mascorro said he did and he agreed that Yeager could consider his 2005 murder conviction and a 1999 conviction on a charge of assault on public servant in assessing punishment.

Earlier, during the testimony portion of the trial, jurors heard from two correctional officers, Margarito Carreon and Roger Rivas. They were the ones who had found the marijuana when they conducted a random search of his cell at the McConnell Unit on Jan. 17, 2009.

The officers said they quickly found a “kite,” a folded piece of paper that apparently had been passed between the cells in the pod where Mascorro lived at the time.

Inside the folded paper, the officers found a piece of a rubber glove and inside the glove was a small amount of marijuana.

The officers also found a note written inside the kite from one inmate to another.

Kenneth Crawford, Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Laboratory forensic document examiner, testified that the note was written by the same hand that had written a grievance complaint signed by Mascorro.

Bland questioned the finding of the handwriting expert and also tried to cast doubt on the results of a test on the marijuana found in the kite.

Johnny Rodgers, another inmate who was in the same McConnell Unit pod at the time, described how kites are passed between cells in Texas prisons using a “line.” He said lines are made of threads taken from bed sheets and other items inside the prison.

The kites are “fished” between prison cells, allowing inmates to pass items like soup and drink mixes. The kites are also used to pass illegal drugs between cells, he said.

Bland tried to convince the jury that the kite found in Mascorro’s cell was not intended for him but for another inmate. On the witness stand, Mascorro told jurors that he had no idea what was in the kite. He said he had no reason to look inside the package because that simply is not done inside Texas prisons.

Mascorro told the jury that the kite was sealed with a piece of tape and removing that tape would have shown other inmates that someone had tampered with the message.

Rodgers had said earlier when asked if it was routine for somebody to see what is inside a kite intended for someone else, “Oh no, sir. You don’t do that. Somebody’d hurt you.”

Mascorro confirmed Rodgers’ earlier statements when he was questioned on the witness stand.

“I did have a kite,” the defendant admitted. But he denied knowledge of what was in the package.

Mascorro said he had heard that the kite had originated in 75 cell in the pod and it was clearly marked with the numbers 44. The defendant said that was the destination of the package. He was in 87 cell at the time.

“Kites get passed every day,” Mascorro told the jury. He said the packages include many items, like stamps, food and coffee mixes.

“Did you write that 44 on there?” Bland asked Mascorro as he showed him the kite.

“No, sir.”

“Did you write that note?”

“No, sir,” Mascorro answered. “It was from Diablo (an inmate housed in 75 cell).

When Bland asked Mascorro if he knew what was in the kite, the defendant said, “They put the tape on it for a reason.”

Bland then asked if Mascorro had filled out the grievance form that Crawford said had been filled out by the same hand that wrote the note in the kite.

“No, sir,” Mascorro answered, “I asked someone to do it for me.”

Edwards then called Rivas and Carreon back to the stand to ask them if they found any string in Mascorro’s cell or anything else that might have been used to pass a kite to or from his cell.

Both officers said they did not.

Edwards then asked if they had found a “clothes line” in Mascorro’s cell, a line that some inmates use for hanging clothes, and both officers said they had not.

The defendant will not begin serving his latest prison sentence until after he completes his current murder sentence.

He will be able to appeal the verdict, however.

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