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June 2010


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Texas Inmate Pleads to Offering Undercover ATF Agent $10,000 to Kill His Judge

By Allan Lengel

A 49-year-old Texas inmate pleaded guilty Friday to hiring a hitman —  who ended up being an undercover ATF agent —  to kill a state judge.

Jeffrey Dwayne Harrison pleaded guilty in Lubbock, Tex., to attempted murder-for-hire of Judge Stephen Ellis, 35th Judicial District Court Judge of Brown County, Tex., the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Harrison was incarcerated on drug charges in the Brown County Jail in Texas at the time of the latest crime, authorities said.

According to plea bargaining papers, law enforcement in March learned that  Harrison was looking to hire someone to kill the judge, who was handing his drug case, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

A confidential informant  introduced Harrison to an undercover ATF agent to carry out the murder. Authorities said Harrison first contacted the undercover agent by phone and said:

“I don’t want to say too much, I was just letting you know the court, it’s 35th Judicial [District], Steve Ellis is my judge, he said you’d get some paperwork rolling for me, so I’m going to shoot you some money so that we can get that rolling right.”

On March 10,  the undercover agent met with Harrison in the Brown County jail and told him that it would cost $10,000, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.  Harrison agreed to pay it. On more than one occasion, Harrison told the undercover agent that he could get the $10,000.

“I’m going to pay and it’s going to get even better when I get out,” he said.

Later that evening, Harrison called the undercover agent from a phone in the Brown County jail and said:

“I got back to the tank and talked to  (the confidential informant), and let me tell you that 10 [$10,000] in the end, it’s all good, I got you covered on that. That’s all we need to talk about. I just wanted to call and let you know that’s straight, thank you for coming to visit … I’m trying to hit the streets so we can make all this go down the way we like.”

In another conversation, on March 17,   the undercover agent met Harrison at the jail and asked if he had any preference as to how the judge should be killed.  Harrison said he didn’t care as long as the job got done.

The undercover agent told him “[y]ou’re going to be happy with the job as long as this dude ends up with a toe tag, right?”

Correct, Harrison said.

“It’s going to be funny putting this **** in the morgue,” Harrison said. The undercover agent said the murder could be pulled off  before his suppression hearing on March 22, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

On March 24,  “the undercover agent conducted a ruse with Harrison”, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

The undercover agent, wearing handcuffs, was brought into an interview room with Harrison, authorities said.

When the two were alone, authorities said,  the undercover agent asked Harrison, “did you drop the dime on me?”

Harrison said no. The agent said someone had because he was caught an hour outside of town and that they’d found the judge’s body. Harrison repeated that he hadn’t said anything, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

The undercover agent later came back in the room and informed Harrison of his constitutional rights.

Harrison waived his rights.

“What I’m telling you is, what you’re charged with is promising to pay me something of value to kill [Judge Stephen Ellis],” the agent said.  “Yeah, I guess I did,” he said according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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