The Zoom Cat Lawyer Used Federal Agents To Torment a Former Lover With Drug Raids and Bogus Charges
On Tuesday, the bulk of the Twittersphere came together, with partisan divisions falling to the wayside, if only for a few brief moments in time. The source: a Zoom video recording of trial proceedings in Texas’s 394th Judicial District Court, in which Presidio County attorney Rod Ponton appeared on-screen in the form of a wide-eyed kitten. Someone, it seemed, had gotten ahold of the filter settings.
“I’m here live,” he said. “I’m not a cat.”
“I can…I can see that,” replied Judge Roy Ferguson.
So far, the clip has racked up more than 3.6 million views on YouTube and over 26.9 million on Twitter. “If I can make the country chuckle for a moment in these difficult times they’re going through,” he told The New York Times in an interview, “I’m happy to let them do that at my expense.”
Such a light moment is a nice reprieve in a bleak era. It can also make us forget the enormous power people like Ponton wield, and the capacity they have to use that power for very bad things.
For example, a Reason investigation in 2014 and subsequent documentary reported that, as a prosecutor, Ponton leveraged the gears of the federal government in a yearslong effort to level bogus drug charges against a woman in Alpine, Texas, ultimately succeeding at destroying her business.
The target, Ilana Lipsen, was his alleged former lover; she says she had one sexual encounter with him after arriving in town as an 18-year-old college student in 2003. (Ponton, who is now 69, would have been in his early 50s.) Lipsen told Reason that she was “disgusted with herself,” and although she noticed odd behavior from Ponton afterward—she recounted him driving by her house, for example—she cut ties.
Until 2012, that is, when she would have no choice but to reconnect with Ponton. Nearly a decade later, Lipsen had opened her own store, The Purple Zone, which sold smoking supplies. Anthony Fisher, who reported this story in 2014, described what happened next:
In March 2012, “10-12 men came in, SWAT team style” to the Purple Zone, Lipsen recalls. They told her she was not under arrest, but cuffed her and threw her in the back of a police van while they searched her store, seized personal property including computers, a cell phone, and hard drives. They also took numerous packets of what Lipsen sells as potpourri in the incense section of
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