Medina County Criminal District Attorney’s Office
Wednesday, March 8, 2023
Jeff Diles, Assistant District Attorney and G.O.N.E. Prosecutor for the Medina County Criminal District Attorney (MCCDA), Mark P. Haby, announced that Patricia Ann Lara, of Hondo, was sentenced today by a Medina County Jury to nine years of imprisonment in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for delivery of 1.44 grams of methamphetamine. The sentence was imposed by the same jury that found Lara guilty of the offense on March 7, 2023.
Lara was the first case falling under the umbrella of the MCCDA G.O.N.E. initiative (Gangs, Organized Crime and Narcotics Trafficking Enforcement) to be resolved by a jury trial. Lara was one of 21 individuals arrested in an early morning warrant roundup in January of 2022 after the Medina County grand jury in Hondo and a federal grand jury in San Antonio returned indictments earlier that month charging 24 men and women with several state and federal felonies. The indictments resulted from an investigation of a methamphetamine distribution network operating in Medina County. The investigation, which unearthed methamphetamine distribution activities extending to multiple Texas counties as well as Mexico, began in October of 2020 as a collaborative effort of HPD, MCSO, supported by the MCCDA G.O.N.E. initiative. Lara had been identified as an investigation target due to her associations with other players in the larger investigation.
Jury selection for the trial began on Monday, March 6 and the State, represented by Assistant District Attorneys Jeff Diles and Christian Neumann, concluded its presentation of witnesses and evidence by noon on Tuesday.
Witnesses for the state included the two investigators of the Medina County Sheriff’s office, the purchaser of the methamphetamine, a private citizen who was paid by law enforcement to purchase the drugs from Lara, and the chemist for the Texas DPS lab in Abilene who confirmed that the substance delivered was methamphetamine.
Investigators described how they met with the buyer, referred to as a Cooperating Individual or CI, prior to the buy to confirm that the buyer did not have drugs or money on their person or in their car then provided the buyer with cash from the Medina County Sheriff Drug Forfeiture Fund (not taxpayer funds) and a device for covertly recording the transaction. They also stated that they were able to watch the transaction on a live feed from the recording device and that they followed the CI from a safe distance and were able to park in a location where they could see the CI make contact with Lara in a vehicle in the parking lot of the Regency Hotel in Hondo where the transaction took place. Lara’s face was never seen on the video from the recording device, the investigators showed the jury an image from the video of a distinctive upper-arm tattoo and tattoo photos taken at the jail of Lara after a previous arrest that showed the same distinctive upper-arm tattoo.
When the CI was called as a witness, they entered the courtroom from a secure area wearing a prison jumpsuit and shackles. The CI is currently serving a prison sentence for a drug related offense and testified in this case after a bench warrant was issued by the presiding Judge requiring the CI to be brought to court to testify. The CI’s testimony matched the statements made by the investigators, and the CI confirmed it was in fact Lara who conducted the delivery of the methamphetamine, ”I gave her the money. She gave me the drugs.” The CI also identified the defendant in the courtroom as the person who gave her the methamphetamine that day.
Sarah McGregor from the DPS Crime Lab in Abilene walked the jury through the drug testing process used by DPS labs and specifically the testing used on the drugs acquired from Lara during the transaction to confirm that it was methamphetamine that was purchased by the CI.
The defense produced no witnesses on behalf of Lara, and the jury delivered a unanimous guilty verdict before 4:00 p.m. that same day.
The punishment phase of the trial began without delay. The state submitted evidence of Lara’s prior felony conviction and prison sentence for Injury to an Elderly Person, and Lara’s defense team presented character witnesses on behalf of Lara.
Lara was represented by attorneys with the Hill Country Regional Public Defender’s Office, and Judge Daniel J. Kindred, 454th Judicial District Judge, presided over the trial.